How exactly a gun was snuck into Wilson and what exactly happened when it was discovered may not be fully revealed for a year. As the criminal investigation winds its way through the justice system, it will ultimately determine the fate of a student who brought a Glock 19 to school. In the meantime a multitude of security measures are being implemented, following a walk-through done by authorities last Friday reviewing security procedures and flagging cameras, doors, and locks that need fixing.
At approximately 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1, a gun was discovered in a student’s backpack in a fourth floor math class. According to the Metropolitan Police Department incident report, the teacher of the class caught wind of the presence of the gun, and immediately notified Wilson administrators. Dean Angelo Hernandez sprinted to the classroom, with Wilson security and Metropolitan Police following closely behind. The teacher continued teaching, according to junior Helene Gusman, who was in the class at the time of the incident.
According to other students also present at the time, the student with the gun left the classroom with security, and shortly after, students sitting near the student with the gun were also taken out of the classroom. Principal Kimberly Martin then entered the class and took the students’ backpacks, which had been left behind. Before administrators and teachers learned about the presence of the gun, a classmate posted a Snapchat video showing the student holding the gun under a desk in a classroom. The Snapchat video was deleted later that day.
One of the students involved in the incident entered through the front door and metal detectors in the morning, Martin said, adding that there are many scenarios in which a gun could be brought in through different doors at different times throughout the day. Martin indicated that the student leaving and re-entering the building before 5th period was a possibility.
Bringing a firearm onto public school property is a violation of DC law, and in this case will result in a criminal investigation and trial. If the students are 18 or over, they could face jail time. Possessing a firearm on public school property is listed as a Tier 5 behavior, meaning they are eligible for expulsion or long-term suspension. “All students that we have connected or involved in the situation are being disciplined,” Martin said. The Washington Post reported that the student who brought in the firearm was charged as a juvenile with carrying a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm.
On December 4 Martin met with several members of the Metropolitan Police Department, representatives for Wilson’s security company Allied Barton, and DCPS officials to conduct a walkthrough of the Wilson building and security. Police commander Jacob Kishter, who attended the meeting, said the group was looking for “any troubling areas where we may be able to make a recommendation of changes to the building or additional cameras or doors.”
Kishter and Martin both agree that students letting other students into the building is a major security issue. Martin gave an example of a student letting another student in through a side door, so the second student would not have to go through security at the front door. “I think that we know that some of our doors aren’t super visible,” Martin said. “Even as we were having our safety visit/tour by the auditorium a student came out and she went down to let in another student down by the auditorium.”
New security measures include two new security personnel, students not being allowed into the building without an authorized staff escort before 8:00 a.m. or after 3:45 p.m., and new signage and alarms on doors.
The new security staff members were hired to assist in the implementation of the new policies and the increased security vigilance. Martin said no security staff will be fired. “No [security staff] did anything improper that I have discovered yet,” she said.
Kishter said that currently Wilson’s security as compared to the security of other schools is “adequate.” He said that Wilson personnel responded well throughout the gun incident, praising Martin for quickly calling the authorities.
Many external doors at Wilson are unlocked, creating opportunities for students to open the door for other students, bypassing security. “We can’t have a prison. This isn’t a locked facility. We have to have our doors unlocked for fire purposes and for all kinds of reasons like if you want to leave you’re allowed to leave,” Martin says.
There are 34 external doors in the school that are monitored by security cameras, and 205 cameras total in the school. Repairs included fixing the delayed timers that appear on top of the doors. All 34 external doors have delayed timers, so “if you push it [the door], that ‘15’ will show up and you have 15 seconds before it [the door] pushes open,” Martin says. So even though the doors will eventually open to prevent any fire hazards, the opening of the door “alerts a camera at the camera station,” Martin says. “[Security] can take a picture of that person who is exiting. It’s not preventing them from leaving, they can still leave, it just notifies us and pops up on a camera.”
Last time a gun was brought to Wilson was in March, 2012. A student carried the gun into school in his boot and got through security at the main entrance, intending to harm himself. Grover Massenburg, a former teacher, talked the student out of causing harm, and the student relinquished the gun to Dean Angelo Hernandez.
Counselor Diane Blitz said that some students have approached her with concerns because there was a gun in school. “Mostly the process is listening and validating their concerns, and that it must have been scary,” Blitz said. “In the end I think most of the time kids are afraid of what they don’t know versus what they know— and that’s a scary thing.”
A fight involving a knife occurred outside the pool entrance after school on the same day as the gun incident and was connected to the gun incident by local news stations. However, Kishter confirmed that the two events were unrelated.
Martin said she would not change anything about how Wilson responded to the gun incident. “We followed the [security protocol] right to the tee,” Martin said, “The only thing is I might have ran up the steps instead of taking the elevator.” •
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA