AKRON, Ohio — Officials confirm two Akron Public Schools were briefly locked down Monday afternoon after a student brought a gun into one of the buildings.
According to APS, students had told teachers they believed one of their classmates was carrying a weapon, and within minutes staff and security located the individual and found a firearm in his fanny pack. The student is a seventh-grader at Litchfield Community Learning Center.
"How is a gun able to get past the metal detectors when it even flags my phone going through the metal detectors?" sophomore El'Dria Thrasher-Johnson wondered. "They didn't notice the kid had it until the end of the day, that's really dangerous."
Both Litchfield and Firestone CLC were placed on lockdown from roughly 2 p.m. until 2:30. No one was hurt, and it is unknown at this time if the student might face charges.
"Akron Public Schools praises the smart thinking of our students who followed through on rumors they had heard," the district said in a statement. "As we say, if you see something, say something."
The incident is just the latest in a series of episodes that have brought the safety of Akron Public Schools into question. Within the last month, students were stabbed at both Firestone and Buchtel CLCs, and at least two fights at Ellet led to a heavy police presence.
Thrasher-Johnson was at Firestone last month during the first stabbing. That was one of the reasons she made the decision with her mom to transfer to East CLC.
"That was a really big scare for me when that kid came in with a knife and she said that she didn't know what would happen next," Thrasher-Johnson said. "It's school. We should be able to come here and learn without having to focus on that stuff."
In the wake of the troubles, the city's teacher's union overwhelmingly rejected a fact-finder's recommendations for a new labor contract, claiming concerns over the welfare of those in the buildings are not being addressed.
"We are blessed that something enormously tragic hasn't happened already," Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe told 3News. "That is a concern of ours every day."
In a letter sent to parents Monday evening, Akron Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack called the incident "absolutely unacceptable" and stated she has directed staff members at middle and high schools to conduct "routine" metal detector and backpack checks that had previously been "random." She also clamed the district is "working to upgrade, install and expand our safety equipment and related personnel" while also completing various safety and security audits.
"As we have emphasized over the last few weeks, school safety is foundational for good teaching and learning," Fowler-Mack wrote. "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."
APS also wants to expand preventative programs and services. Thrasher-Johnson suggested something else, as well.
"If you're so angry at someone that you feel the need to threaten them and their life, then you should really talk to someone about that," she stated.
A proposal is being put together to call for new metal detectors at APS middle and high schools. It will be presented at the next board meeting on Dec. 12.
You can read Fowler-Mack's full letter below:
"To: Parents and Caregivers of APS Students:
"Regrettably, I need to share information about a serious safety incident that occurred today at Litchfield CLC. Several students had alerted school administrators that a student was in possession of a weapon shortly before 2 p.m.
"Administrators, APS security and school resource officers responded immediately, and within minutes, the student was in the custody of police and now faces serious charges for possession of a gun.
"This is absolutely unacceptable and reinforces our shared concern and focused attention to safety, security, and accountability in our schools.
"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.
"Akron Public Schools takes safety seriously; we are working to upgrade, install and expand our safety equipment and related personnel. Soon we want to be at the point where new, high-tech metal detection equipment is in place every day.
"We are certainly impatient to complete security audits and upgrades and to make it easier to keep weapons out of our schools. Anxiety increases with each incident. So does our resolve to do everything we can to ensure our schools are safe.
"In addition to the hardware, we continue to expand our preventative measures programs, practices, and mental health support services and are committed to regularly updating staff, families, and the community on those steps.
"At this time, I am issuing an order for staff to modify the current practice of random use of metal detectors and backpack checks to routine use in middle grades and high schools. A safety audit currently underway includes a review of the needs of our elementary schools.
"In the meantime, each of us owes a debt of gratitude to the students and administrators whose quick actions ensured a student with a weapon in his possession posed no harm to students or staff today. Please remind your students to do as our students did today: 'if you see something ... say something.'"