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Clear backpacks, metal detectors, safety screenings. CMS superintendent brings up possible solutions after guns recovered in schools

Superintendent Earnest Winston sent a message to families, saying “this is unacceptable”
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 3:50 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As of Friday, at least 17 guns have been confiscated at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this school year.

Superintendent Earnest Winston sent a message to families, saying “this is unacceptable.”

Winston said he met with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney, Mecklenburg County Sheriff, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District Court judges and city and county leaders to discuss solutions to students bringing guns to school.

“We are facing a crisis of student aggression and violence within our community and our schools. Guns do not belong in schools or in the hands of children,” Winston said.

This comes on the heels of a school shooting near Detroit, Michigan where four students were fatally shot.

Winston is pleading for parents, friends and family members to take a stand and prevent students from taking weapons to schools.

“The news of the tragic shooting this week in a Michigan school is disturbing and hits close to home as we see increased fights in schools and more guns on our campuses,” Winston said.

Winston said he assigned a workgroup to evaluate possible options at CMS schools.

CMS has ordered clear backpacks for high schools and has been told that delivery is delayed until February.

“We have dedicated a team to implement a tool for middle and high school students to report anonymously,” Winston said. “We have doubled the number of random safety screenings in our secondary schools.

Winston said they are considering metal detectors and wands as possible solutions.

“We have been engaged with city and county partners to share strategies like the Alternative to Violence program that reaches out into the community. There is more work to do,” Winston said.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather told WBTV that a critical part of the issue is allowing children to have access to these guns.

“There is no reason why a high school student or middle school student should have the kind of access to guns that results in 19 or 20 weapons being found in our schools,” Merriweather said.

Sheriff Garry McFadden said the effort is to make sure a shooting like the recent one in Michigan doesn’t happen in Charlotte.

“The weapons that you found on campus are the weapons that you found on campus and we all know that there were probably more weapons on campus than that,” McFadden said. “We just don’t want to see anything happen to our students like it happened in Michigan.”

Most recently, a student was found with a gun on the campus of Garinger High School on Thursday.

Earlier this week, a gun was found in a backpack following a fight at Harding University High School.

“We are all concerned for the safety of our students and staff,” Winston said. “Addressing this crisis is a top priority, and we will communicate more actions as our team takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to new school safety measures and preventing further violence.”

Public records requests show nearly 200 weapons were found at CMS schools from August to the beginning of November.

Merriweather says Thursday’s meeting was the start of a longer conversation and action steps to keep schools safe.

“We want to make sure that we gain as much momentum and pull from every single corner of this community as much as we can,” Merriweather said.

Sheriff McFadden says the biggest issue is the disconnect between students and leaders in the community, something he says can only be fixed with communication and consistency.

“We are not connected with our kids. We are not connected with the students inside the schools. We need to have that connection,” McFadden said.

Merriweather says all of the agencies and organizations involved need to communicate with grassroots organizations that are already mentoring and volunteering in CMS.

“The solutions are within them already,” Merriweather said.

Several viewers asked WBTV will partners be charged for their students bringing guns to school.

As of early November, CMPD said no parents had been charged following previous incidents of students bringing weapons to schools.

“I know that’s a hard thing for people to say, but should we hold the parents accountable? They hold us accountable. We should hold them accountable and this is something I think we need to look at,” McFadden said.

Here is the full letter to families:

Hello CMS Families,

“This is Superintendent Earnest Winston. The news of the tragic shooting this week in a Michigan school is disturbing and hits close to home as we see increased fights in schools and more guns on our campuses. This is unacceptable. We are facing a crisis of student aggression and violence within our community and our schools. Guns do not belong in schools or in the hands of children.

Yesterday, I met with the district attorney, Charlotte-Mecklenburg chief of police, sheriff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, district court judges and city and county leaders to discuss solutions to this growing crisis.

Recently, I directed a workgroup to evaluate all possible options for our schools and develop and prioritize short- and long-term solutions. We have ordered clear backpacks for high schools and have been told that delivery is delayed until February. We have dedicated a team to implement a tool for middle and high school students to report anonymously. We have doubled the number of random safety screenings in our secondary schools.

We have spoken with screening equipment manufacturers regarding metal detectors and wands to determine next steps. We have been engaged with city and county partners to share strategies like the Alternative to Violence program that reach out into the community. There is more work to do.

We are all concerned for the safety of our students and staff. Addressing this crisis is a top priority, and we will communicate more actions as our team takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to new school safety measures and preventing further violence.”

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