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Akron superintendent says schools are boosting security in wake of student with gun in school

Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack behind a podium speaking at the Akron Roundtable.
Eman Abu-Khaled
/
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack speaking at the Akron Roundtable on Oct. 20, 2022.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack said Monday evening that the school district is moving to routine use of metal detectors and backpack checks in all middle and high schools after two schools were locked down Monday due to a student carrying a gun.

Fowler-Mack said the seventh-grade student was arrested at Litchfield Community Learning Center Monday afternoon quickly after staff was alerted by students. The seventh grader, who had been carrying the gun in a fanny pack, was taken into custody and now faces charges, Fowler-Mack said. Akron Public Schools spokesperson Mark Williamson confirmed the student was actually inside the school with the gun.

"This is absolutely unacceptable and reinforces our shared concern and focused attention to safety, security, and accountability in our schools," Fowler-Mack said. "As we have emphasized over the last few weeks, school safety is foundational for good teaching and learning. It is a priority and must be a shared responsibility, as evidenced by the increased offer of city government, safety officials, and community agencies and partners to integrate efforts around this important problem."

The Akron Education Association has raised concerns about staff and school safety amid contract negotiations with the administration over the last several weeks. Teachers union President Pat Shipe had called Tuesday and Wednesday last week "48 hours of chaos" after a student was stabbed, another school was locked down due to a bomb threat, and a significant number of Akron Police cruisers were called to a school to stop a student fight. At the time, Shipe had said the union was concerned with the lack of Fowler-Mack's presence on the ground at those schools.

"We believe that Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack has failed students, parents and community," she said.

Fowler-Mack had said in her message, which was sent to families Monday night, that the schools had previously had a policy of random backpack and metal detector checks as students entered buildings in middle and high schools.

She said that the schools are working quickly to upgrade, install and expand “safety equipment and related personnel," in addition to She added the district soon hopes to have high-tech metal detection equipment. And the district will continue to expand its "preventative measures programs, practices and mental health support services."

Fowler-Mack had said in a message to parents and staff two weeks ago that the school district has put a significant number of resources toward school safety recently. Most of the message mentioned physical security in buildings, including items like cameras, door alarms and audits of building safety protocols, but she said the district also hired specific administrators to “oversee student behavior intervention and response, security technology and equipment, and safety personnel.”

Conor Morris covers education in Northeast Ohio.