In the wake of a local school shooting last week, the head of security at Atlanta Public Schools told the school board Monday the district inspects school metal detectors every year and tries to repair malfunctioning ones within 24 hours of finding out they’re broken.
Otherwise, APS Director of Security Marquenta Sands did little to explain how a 15-year-old student brought a pistol onto the campus of Price Middle School on Thursday and shot another student.
The 14-year-old who was shot in what Atlanta Police said appeared to be a gang-related incident was treated at Grady Memorial Hospital and released the same day.
The alleged shooter — who has not been identified because he’s a minor — was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm on school property. The Fulton County district attorney may prosecute him as an adult.
The metal detectors at Price were inoperable the day of the shooting, the district said. One has been fixed, and another will be repaired this week. But it’s still not clear how the shooter brought the gun onto campus. Did he slip through the broken metal detector?
Or did he just walk onto the campus, which does not have a secure perimeter?
APS Superintendent Erroll Davis reminded the board that district schools are “not designed to be fortresses,” and Price Middle is no exception.
“This school is multiple buildings. People can walk into the courtyard (where the shooting took place) from off the street; it’s next to woods. Our schools were designed to be bright, warm, nurturing places. Each one is going to be unique.”
School officials said they are testing all metal detectors and reviewing “student entrance and exit procedures.” Still, stiffening security and tightening access to the schools is a challenge, Davis said.
Sands said APS is looking at “advanced technology” to make schools more secure, and new training for officers, teachers and parents. But she offered few specifics. The changes are evolving, she said.
Several board members questioned whether the district told parents about the shooting quickly enough. The shooting occurred at 1:50 p.m., and almost an hour and a half passed before APS widely notified parents about the shooting and its details.
In the meantime, rumors and erroneous reports circulated, including that a teacher had been shot at another school.
“I want to add one note of caution in this age of instant communication,” said Davis. “We are not allowed to be inaccurate. Others don’t have that burden. Our communications will be slower because there is a burden to be accurate.”