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CMS parents sound off on violence in schools following latest gun incident

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg school leaders and parents spoke about student safety Tuesday night -- a day after police swarmed West Charlotte High School when a gunshot was fired on campus.

According to officials, two students arguing over a backpack led to the incident -- the latest involving guns at a CMS campus. Hours later, a juvenile was charged, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.

“Please do not derail your future by making the terrible decision to bring a weapon onto school campus,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Officers responded to the school at 2:16 p.m., shortly after students were let out for the day. CMPD confirmed the shots were not fired inside the school.

Police said that after the fight, a student showed a gun and fired at least one round.

According to CMPD, no one was shot during the incident. MEDIC said they treated one person for a minor injury that was not related to gunfire.

The juvenile, who is the only suspect, is being charged with possession of a firearm on school grounds, investigators said. Officials have not said if the juvenile is a student at the school.

“This was outside of the school. It was not inside the building. It was outside, but it was on school ground,” said CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings. “That’s pretty much all I can tell you right now. We’re investigating thoroughly -- our officers, along with CMS. Everybody was quick to respond. We were able to apprehend and gather quite a few people right away.”

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the school, where a large police presence could be seen. CMS said the school went on lockdown due to the police activity.

As police continue to investigate, Jennings said it’s a possibility that parents could also face charges in connection to the incident.

CMS has said it is working to address violence in schools after two dozen guns have been found on campuses this school year. At West Charlotte High alone, nine guns have been found on campus this year, including the one found Monday, according to officials.

Winston said the district has doubled the number of random screenings. The district will also implement an anonymous reporting app. Clear backpacks will be provided to students, as well.

“Clear backpacks aren’t going to do a thing,” parent Brooke Weiss told school leaders at Tuesday’s meeting. “The guns are just going to be hidden in baggy clothing. The nearly half-a-million dollars spent on those pieces of garbage should have been spent on real solutions.”

School board members said all options need to be on the table.

“Safety of staff and students is now something that is a daily news story,” school board member Rhonda Cheek said. “I am sickened by the behavior of a small number of students that are ruining things for the students that are trying to achieve.”

At a news conference following the incident on Monday, Winston said it was “unacceptable.”

“I want to reiterate something I have said multiple times before. What happened today is not a reflection of the hard work that takes place on West Charlotte’s campus. Today’s incident is yet another example of issues that originate in our community that make their way onto our school campuses, and it is unacceptable,” Winston said.

(WATCH BELOW: CMPD chief, CMS superintendent give update on shots fired at West Charlotte HS)

In a letter sent to staff Monday that was obtained by Channel 9, West Charlotte High School said it would move to remote learning on Tuesday out of concern for students and staff members’ emotional health. Below is the full letter:

“Parents of West CLT High School,

Out of concern for student and staff emotional health and to provide time for students and staff to process the incident, Superintendent Winston has authorized (Principal Hoskins) to transition the school to be fully remote asynchronous day for Tuesday Dec. 14.

Students are advised to check their course information via Canvas or their school email address to receive information about asynchronous lessons.

Counselors will be available to meet with students and staff electronically during the day on Tuesday. More information will be shared tomorrow morning about how students and staff can arrange meetings with counselors and support staff.”

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings and CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston speak to the press following a shooting outside West Charlotte High School on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts spoke to parents and students about what happened at West Charlotte High. Pearl Hill came to pick up her son at the school, and both of them believe something can be done to make the schools safer.

“It’s crazy. Kids bringing guns to school and all this. I don’t understand why all these kids getting a hold of guns. Like, what’s wrong with these parents?” Devonte Hill said.

“They need to put the metal detectors in the school and they need to get the clear bookbags. They need to have more security than what they have. Even checking the cars,” Pearl Hill said.

Alumni who graduated from West Charlotte High years ago, and whose children went to the school, told Channel 9 they’re having a hard time believing what’s going on.

At the news conference Monday, Winston acknowledged parents who might be feeling uneasy right now.

“I will tell you as a parent of two CMS students, if I did not feel our schools were safe, then I might make a different choice,” he said.

This is an ongoing investigation.

Return to this story for updates.

(WATCH BELOW: Program encourages students to send tips to police about weapons in return for reward)