Archived Story

Middle school student suspended for opening door

Published 9:31am Saturday, February 26, 2011

COURTLAND—A Southampton Middle School student was suspended Thursday for opening an exterior door for a visitor.

“Students are not allowed to open the doors, and if anyone does, they will be suspended,” said Dr. Wayne K. Smith, executive director of administration and personnel.

A districtwide policy prohibiting students and staff from opening doors to the outside was recently adopted after a $10,800 security system was installed at the middle school, Southampton High School, Southampton Technical Career Center and Nottoway, Meherrin and Capron elementary schools. Riverdale Elementary had a similar system installed when it was built three years ago.

All of the schools’ doors are locked during the day. Visitors must ring a buzzer and look into a camera before office personnel can let them in.

Smith said everyone knew about the policy and its consequences. The middle school student was the first to be suspended for opening a door. Smith did not say how many days of suspension the unidentified student received.

According to an anonymous e-mail sent to The Tidewater News, the “A” student opened the door for a woman he knew, who had her hands full. The e-mail also indicated the student received a one-day, out-of-school suspension.

Smith said he could not confirm the story for confidentiality reasons. Superintendent Charles Turner said he did not know all the details behind the suspension.

Turner said the policy that prohibits anyone from opening doors was part of making the security system work.

“If it happens, it’s defeated,” he said. “You have to have a system, and that system has to be consistent. We have to stay within the rules and stay secure.”

Turner explained that part of the school district’s mission is to provide a quality education in a safe environment.

“We looked at what we’re doing in our schools for safety and looked at what others have done,” he said.

That’s why the security system was installed initially at the secondary schools and then the elementary schools.

“We notified parents a week in advance once it was installed,” Turner said. “It was so well received by our parents.”

  • keepitreal2

    I agree that out of school suspension was harsh. I have a child that attends southampton high school and I never received anything about this new security system. I think something as important as new security measures, letters should have been mailed to the parents just like report cards are.

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  • Pierce

    This is getting WAY out of hand! This is a very unfortunate situation and it seems a little harsh but policy is policy and I am glad as a parent to know that the school is very serious about protecting my children. My children knew of the policy and brought home the memo and when asked both of mine knew NOT to open the doors. God forbid someone with bad intentions is let in the school and harm is done, then all of these comments about this one day suspension will seem trivial.

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  • amanda_cake

    In case y’all haven’t seen it, this story has made the national news… including newser.com & Fox.

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  • mason

    cbjackson, what’s that about “Let’s talk about how the students were taken in to an assembly to talk about how half of the seventh grade class are failing. NOw, that’s something to talk about.” Please tell us more.

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  • DavidinCT

    Shaking the tree over here, boss.

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  • Dakota01

    It’s BS to suspend somebody for good manners and not punish the other person. Hey tidewater news why don’t you find out what happend to the other person so you can get the whole story………

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  • amanda_cake

    http://www.wtkr.com/news/wtkr-sc-door-mar1,0,3439764.story if you want to see the clip that was on News Channel 3. As a student at SHS, that clip poses a lot of questions. I think the policy is too harsh.

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  • cbjackson

    This child was sat down by his parents and talked to extensively about the choice he made. He realizes that he was wrong to open the door and what the consequences could have been should that person have had a weapon or wanted to do harm to people in the school. But honestly, these parents were NOT notified of this security system. The father went to pick his son up from school one day to find that the door was locked. That was the first that he had ever heard of it. Just wondering when the information came home to the parents? Did the parents have to sign a form stating that they had discussed it with their children, etc? This is a good kid. And, he will continue to be a good kid after the smoke clears. But, if you want to put something on the news can’t it be something a little more news worthy. Let’s talk about how the students were taken in to an assembly to talk about how half of the seventh grade class are failing. NOw, that’s something to talk about.

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    • itlady

      letters where sent home two weeks before policy was put in place, I still have mine!!

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    • cmc24

      cbjackson, I am a reporter in new york and am interested in covering this. are you available to talk?

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  • Dakota01

    So basically a child is being punished for opening a door for a SCHOOL employee after being asked to by the EMPLOYEE. Didn’t the SCHOOL employee know better and what was the punsishment for that person. What’s good for one is good for the other.

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    • teach14

      Did this young man let in an EMPLOYEE? I thought it was a parent.

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  • peterspaul3

    And for all that are interested and read this early enough…I guess the same “anomnymous” person that contacted the Tidewater News with this story has gotten it put on News 3 @ 11p.m. tonight!! Go Figure!!

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  • Tezcumpapa

    Ok, I get where he shouldn’t have opened the door. But a day’s suspension? A wee bit extreme…what happened to “a good talking to” and time in detention after school? I do suspect that a little power has gone to their heads…and an advesarial situation exists between the Administration and the students – I’d address that puppy real quick or its only going to get worse. I mean, we had an honors student booted from school for bringing a plastic butter knive for her lunch. This sweet kid was destroyed. Good luck, my friends. And, a hug for that student!

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    • cmc24

      Tezcumpapa, I am a reporter in New York and am interested in covering this. are you available for an interview?

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  • franklinmom

    everette, I can’t say that I’ve always agreed with you, but I do this time. :) It IS too late after the fact!

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  • weatherspotter

    Turner didn’t know the details…. Sounds like the Norfolk police chief.

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  • DanMcD

    I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that Turner is one of the sort that demands courtesy and respect from others, but is willing to punish them when the courtesy and respect is directed at others. This sort of placing of a child in a double-bind is also called “emotional child abuse”.

    If the district can pay someone with (supposed) a doctorate to act as their “executive director of administration and personnel” they can certainly afford doors with alarms and crashbars on all but the main entrance, and then funnel all visitors through that door.

    Alternatively, replace Smith with someone less (technically, on paper) overqualified and use the savings to hire a greeter away from the local Wal*Mart to stand at the door.

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  • AmrTheLion

    So what’s going to happen to the woman who determined that the rules don’t apply to her? If she wouldn’t have banged on the door, the child would have never opened it.

    This is not the child’s fault, this is the fault of the woman who did not follow proper procedure and enter the building through the front door.

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  • c

    I am an educator in a neighboring school division and I wish our division had a similar security system. It is unfortunate that we must be this cautious but the world is becoming ever more dangerous! I applaud Southampton for putting this system in place and the children have to know this is for their safety. The letters went out informing parents of the security system. After receiving the letters, I would hope that parents discussed the new system with their child/children. This is a very unfortunate incident for this young man but we must remember the security system was also put in place to protect him!! Although he knew the visitor, this situation could have been a tragedy if the visitor had other intentions when entering the school. It is too late to think about “What if’s” after a tragedy has occured.

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    • DanMcD

      The “world is becoming ever more dangerous”? That may be true for places like Afghanistan, but violent crime in the United States has been on a steady decline for decades.

      Nice try whipping up hysteria, though.

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  • 2forme

    Please stop asking if it is in the hand book! It’s not going to be in there because the security system was just installed and the handbook was printed last summer!!! If it is only an ISS then that information is only retained in the students file and is not reported to DOE.

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    • rayne

      Yes, what is this ‘danger’ everyone keeps talking about? What? Where? Kids are not being kidnapped by strangers on a daily basis. What has happened in the area that requires such imprisonment of students?

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  • Nemo1

    This has nothing to do weather or not the kid was in the right or wrong. The point is that the School Administration CLAIMS its a policy BUT if it is a policy then:

    1. Why is it NOT in the Student Policy Manual? If it is please show us.
    2. What was the date they claim it took effect? Proof?
    3. When did they inform the kids and when did they inform the kids that were not there the day they claim they told them? Was it done in a student assembly? Proof?
    4. What guidlines did the Assistant Principal have to go by? Proof? In the manuals ALL student type offence’s are listed with what the punishment is. EX: If a kid does (fill in the blank) the punishment is (A) Warning or talked to (B) In School Suspension (C) X amount of days home (D) Expelled From School.

    IF there is none of the above in writing then how can the Administration “WING IT” with such a punishment?

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  • 1stAmendment

    BTW – no discipline records are forwarded in any way to colleges with the aplication.

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  • franklinmom

    Been the teacher and the parent… not here, but still. I would NOT want a suspension on the record of my child; however, having said that, a policy is a policy for a reason… and DO NOT open a door means DO NOT open a door.

    Contemplate this: Many people, children and adults alike, knew C. Steinert. For a good long while, he was a very loving, active father and husband. He attended games and was quite involved in the life of his family. Somewhere along the way, things went awry. HE might have been at that door with his hands full trying to gain access with ill intentions. A friend of one of the children might have been doing a “good deed” by opening that door, but what if that was the day his estranged wife had taken his son on a field trip? The result could have been horrifying. By making him go around to the secured entrance, the school personnel would have been aware of the situation and better prepared to handle his attempt to gain entrance to the facility.

    Whenever there is a suspension or a conviction or a blemish on a record, there is always a comment section where it can be explained. In this case, I would have to tell my child that, although I understood his heart, he was in the wrong. Unfortunately, that is the society in which we live. The child does not deserve an apology if he broke a rule, and if he is ever faced with having to explain this one blemish, I am sure the panel to whom he is explaining it will understand that THIS suspension is different than if he had knocked a kid out.

    My vote is for keeping kids safe… at all costs. Thank you, Southampton… I wish neighboring communities would take your lead.

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  • ccparker3

    This is blown out of proportion! The situation that took place at Riverdale has nothing to do with a student that opened a door. Please keep in mind, the situation may appear swept under a rug to many of us but whatever is or has taken place does not need to be displayed in the public. This is to protect the family instead of constant reminders in the news and avoid smalltown talk. I am sure Southampton School Administrators have handled the situations very well. I wonder if this was a student that made below C average would this even be a discussion. No one would even care! At this point, the proper action was taken…..let’s talk about bullying and the budget…fight for that! This one day suspension will not keep him out of college if he maintains the A’s! He still has a future, he knows now to not open the door for anyway…one day suspension is not a life sentence!

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  • steelersgal

    @Country Girl…the police were called about the bomb threat, and a note was sent home to the parents. The situation was handled very well.

    As for the policy…my child is at SMS & knew very well not to open the doors under ANY circumstance. The student should have gone to an adult and made them aware that someone was at the door. This security system makes me feel very safe, especially since the school is on a main highway and could easily be a target.

    Perhaps zero tolerance seems extreme, but rules are there for the safety of our children. If something had happened as a result of the student opening the door, everyone would be wondering why he wasn’t punished.

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    • chilimac72

      Zero Tolerance policies are easier for administration to rule, but lack any common sense. My son is also at SMS and said that multiple teachers had discussed this policy in their classrooms. I am happy to see the security system is being used, and that the children are being taught how to make it effective. Suspension is a bit extreme in this case, and should be evaluated. Organizations use Zero Tolerance so there is no need to decide what the punishment is and it keeps everyone from claiming other issues, such as race, as the determining factor. It is critical to keeping our schools safe.

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    • country girl

      @steelersgal…..the police did not come and do a sweep or the kids would have seen them as they did last time. it may have been reported but there was no sweep by them.

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    • DanMcD

      Please stop referring to policies of this sort as “zero tolerance”, which literally means “tolerance of the number zero” — something we learned many centuries ago from the Arabs who invented zero.

      These are “intolerance policies” and calling them something else is at best a disingenuous attempt to hide the reality.

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  • oneflewover

    @cpassut
    Recently a high school student brought a long (over 12 inches) knife to school and damaged computer equipment and another student’s property. The headmaster sent the student home for a few days, but he did not contact the police, or warn the parents, students, or teachers know that this individual was a threat. After a few days out of school, this student was allowed back in school. The administration still has done nothing to warn anyone of this potential threat. The only way a few of the parents found out about this incident was from students who knew what happened. What happens if the next time this person brings something more dangerous than a knife to school? BTW, this incident did not occur at SMS, but it has certainly been kept quiet.

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  • Inma

    I feel badly for the student who was suspended and hope he doesn’t stop being courteous (such a rare find in students/children/people these days). I must add though, the comments made about the death of the Riverdale student have no connection to this article, as his death had nothing to do with a security system. It was a tragic accident that hopefully is never repeated at any of the schools.

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    • apierce

      Good Point Inma!!! Riverdale should not even be compared with this. Two totally different issues!

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  • workingtodamill

    This is why zero tolerance does not work. you cannot just put a blanket policy out there. You still need to go case by case.

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  • Nemo1

    At Second Opinion – Good points. In the end it should be a positive thing but NOT at the expense of a child being suspended when there was NO policy in place and made a example of? That is a fair assessment you have stated. Question is why did they half way place the “Security System” in the schools and not finish it with the points that you made, that are common sense, to complete the project? The “Turner Crew” is not paid by our tax money to half way do the job. The kind of job they do is the reason Southampton County Schools is rated 97th of 130 districts in the state of Virginia according to http://www.schooldigger.com were alot of the schools info such as SOL test averages, Teacher/Student ratios and such info at.

    The points about how the “Turner Crew” is the reason all of this has happened and the mistakes, which they repeat on a normal basis, are coming to light.

    If a Principal CANNOT overide a Assistant Principal and the School Board CANNOT overide a Principal and Assistant Principal then WHO is actually in charge or is it the fact they totally cover each other? Who is checking do make sure everyone is doing their job so the ball is not dropped and a student is not used for a example to cover themselves? This is not the first time such a COVER has been used.

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    • itlady

      Each child was sent a letter home two weeks before this policy was put in place and they are reminded all the time on the intercom not to open the doors!! Maybe some of you did not check book bags for notes, etc. Maybe the school board has not had time to update the policy on the website because they have all these little things to deal with. Thanks SMS for making our children safe and not showing favortism!!!

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  • Second Opinion

    To make a fair assessment of the facts on this matter in the court of public opinion the following documents and/or postings/signs are needed.
    1. School security policy
    2. Notification sent to parents about security system and the use of
    3. Picture or wording of sign at security check point stating procedure for entry
    4. Student handbook language that addresses this issue
    5. Facts pertaining to actions of the adult before and after entering the building.

    Only after all these facts are assembled can one even begin to render a valid opinion. I would say that there is still a great amount of judicial latitude left to the school as to the final outcome of this matter once the parents, student, and principles sit down and discuss this matter. All parties should leave personal grievances off the table and stay to the facts of this situation. This should end up being a great teaching tool to all if positive attitudes prevail.

    Here is a question to ponder; What if this person ,know to the student, had an unknown agenda of misconduct planned once access to the building was obtained? Would your reaction be of disdain to the student for letting this person in to do such harm? Think through both sides of the argument and then weigh the facts.

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    • itlady

      amen to second opinion……..we dont just set rules not to have consequences!! No school is perfect just like… life no one is perfect!

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    More reasons to dump the government schools, and join the home school movement. In our area, google “THEA Home School”, or contact the Tucker Swamp Church for info. It’s not as hard as you might worry . . . . .

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  • cbjackson

    I am the parent of the child in question and I just want to say thank you to all who have written and expressed support for our son and family. As many of know our family has just, Friday evening experienced the loss of my beloved grandfather so this all could not be happening at a worse time. BUt, we are going to handle this situation as soon as possible and will expect for his record to not only be expunged but an apology as well. We have tried to teach our children to be kind and courteous and then they are punished for that behavior. What kind of example are we setting in our school systems? There are teachers that are allowed to speak anyway they want to our children because of tenure and there is little that we can do about it. Our voice will be heard and heard loudly in this matter. I do want everyone to know that our son was suspended by the assitant principal and afterwards he asked to speak to the principal. He told the principal that he understood why the security system was in place but truly never remembered being told not to open the door. He expressed to Mr. Booth (the principal) that he saw the lady (who he knew as a parent of another student)with her hands full and he just ran over to be courteous. He apologized and told him that it would not happen again. Mr. Booth then told him that he would not overide what the assistant principal had said. Again, we appreciate your support!

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    • ccparker3

      I think this is unfortunate that a child was suspended because he did not use better judgement at the time. However, the rules are the rules and he was only suspended for a day. This ruling may seem unfair, however, we have to enforce the rules. I do not think it was a case of the assistant principal wanting to make an example, he or she is clearly protecting the students and enforcing the rules. There is no difference in the student who is being bullied and has to protect themselves in a fight for self defense purposes. Fighting is fighting and you have to suffer the consequences. Regardless of a student’s academic performance (honor roll, principal’s list, etc) it does not make them invisible to following the rules. We should all think your child received a day home from school, but what if the parent came into the school in a moment of rage and jeopardize the lives of students. There are several factors that have to be taken into account and in this case the Assistant principal used his better judgement. If he only gave this student a slap on the wrist, he would have to do that for all students. Students have to take accountablility for their actions. This policy is in place to protect the students and make them more aware of the consequences. The student in question should have went to an adult. From this point on…let us move on to bigger issues…such as the budget that may cut funding for our school system.

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      • donarob

        ccparker3.

        Finally a voice of reason in a sea of utter distain.

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    • SSAS1611

      Those of us that know your son know that he was only trying to help because he is that kind of person. He has always been curtious and kind and always willing to help ANYONE. Coming from a parent of a child that has been suspended I was told by Mr. Booth that whatever happens in Middle School WILL NOT follow them into HS or stay on his record. I know it doesn’t right the wrong but may offer some comfort. Hang in there…your true friends love you and your son regardless!!!!

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    • AmrTheLion

      You should approach the school board and ask what they are doing to the adult that enabled this whole situation. If that adult, who almost assuredly knew the policy, would not have been where they shouldn’t have been, none of this would have happened.

      The adult is responsible, not the child.

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  • cpassut

    I’m not surprised at all that the only way The Tidewater News found out about this was through an anonymous email. In my experience as a TN reporter, the Southampton County School Board kept the tightest lid on information. But this is clearly a newsworthy event, and I would encourage anyone who knows about things like this to continue to pass those anonymous emails along to the TN. I always felt there were too many secrets being kept from parents in Southampton.

    As for the “A” student who now has an in-school suspension on his/her record, I sure hope the school board has the common sense to eventually expunge that blemish from the record.

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  • Nemo1

    At sugabritches – You mean the situation at Riverdale that was swept under the rug and NO ONE ever got any answers and everyone is reminded of it when you walk into the school with a memorial bench?

    I guess the security system took place of extra teachers and field trips. Turner claims Riverdale was built with just auto-locking doors which still did not stop the “bus accident” which still has not been answered and was swept under the rug.

    As stated in the article Riverdale was built 3 years ago which was 2007 with a “security system”. Below in a link to the student conduct manual from the Southampton County Schools website. Please note that the policy manual on the site is not even updated for the 2010 – 2011 school year but the website has been updated with this years school info but no new manual. It is for the 2008 – 2009 school year. No where in that manual says anything about the so-called “security system” and keep in mind Riverdale was built in 2007. So what makes anyone think the “Turner Admin Crew” updated the kids and parants on the security system policy?

    Scroll to the bottom of the page in this link to find the student conduct and the schools policy manual.

    http://www.southampton.k12.va.us

    If the “Turner Crew” wants to blow the smoke that its in a “new” or “updated” manual then I ask them to post a link to show how they DID NOT mess up AGAIN in this situation!

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  • SandMan

    More reason to enroll your kids in Private School.

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    • SSAS1611

      Say what you want about Private school but they have similar issues and the cost is rediculous. Private school is neither the answer here or an option for those of us who must work to provide for their children.

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  • simpleman

    If chivalry isn’t dead, then situations like this is sure going to kill it in the younger generation.

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  • ford

    if southampton had an elected school board then parents would have a voice! they do whatever they want and we have no say. let the kid back in school!

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    • sgeary

      “if southampton had an elected school board then parents would have a voice!” Amen to that and I say Amen again it is time that it becomes an elected school board and one of the qualifications ahould be that you actually have school age children!

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  • country girl

    ok the doors are locked at school. but what happens when a child brings a note of the bomb threat like the middle school had on friday that just pasted. according to the note the bomb will be going off on monday. they students said that the threat was discovered on friday and the school was supposely checked out to make sure everything was ok…but why was the police called….why didn’t the school do the sweep. i don’t trust the school admins. sweeping the school. something of this nature should be more important. sounds like this kid was only being helpful to someone that the child knew.

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    • country girl

      i mean… why wasn’t the police called and why did only the school admins do the sweep.

      my fingers can’t keep up with my brain

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      • steelersgal

        @Country Girl…the police were called about the bomb threat, and a note was sent home to the parents. The situation was handled very well.

        As for the policy…my child is at SMS & knew very well not to open the doors under ANY circumstance. The student should have gone to an adult and made them aware that someone was at the door. This security system makes me feel very safe, especially since the school is on a main highway and could easily be a target.

        Perhaps zero tolerance seems extreme, but rules are there for the safety of our children. If something had happened as a result of the student opening the door, everyone would be wondering why he wasn’t punished.

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    • hunniehome

      MY CHILD WAS THE ONE THAT REPORTED THE BOMB THREAT AND GOT ACCUSED OF WRITING THE NOTE. I HAVE THREATEN A LAWSUIT AGAINST SHCS HE WAS TREATED VERY BADLY AND THEY PERSICUTED
      HIM AND NOW WE ARE AFRAID FOR OUR CHILD TO GO TO THIS SCHOOL HE HASN’T BEEN SINCE THIS INCIDENT THE PRINCIPAL AND TEACHERS THINK THEY CAN SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN ANY WAY THEY LIKE AND IT IS SUPPOSE TO BE OK WELL I AM SORRY CUSSING AT MY CHILD IS NOT OK. AS FOR THE SCHOOL SENDING ANY NOTES HOME ABOUT THIS THEY DID NOT SEND ANYTHING HOME OR CONTACT PARENTS SO KIDS ARE GETTING IN TROUBLE FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING. AND THERE ARE BOTH SIDES TO EVERY STORY PEOPLE SHOULD GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE PASSING JUDGEMENT ANY QUESTIONS ON THIS I WILL BE GLAD TO ANSWER AND THANK GOD THE SCHOOL DIDN’T BLOW UP BUT MY CHILD WILL NEVER REPORT ANYTHING AGAIN BECAUSE IT MEANS TROUBLE WHEN YOU DO IN SMS.

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  • country girl

    my son has a teacher that curses in class, listens to music with bad language and i think some things in class said by the teacher to and from the some of the students is inappropriate

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  • FromHere

    A little common sense would have gone a long ways in this situation. Alas, many people don’t have any.

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  • sugabritches

    The reason why they spent all that money on the alarm system is because Charles Turner and his crew do not want to have another child to lose their life as in the case of the young child that was killed at Riverdale. The smoke screen is security. BULL. Southampton, let’s be real. You are just trying to say that you are so secure now because you don’t want to have to take responsibility for the lack of coverage that you are notorious for anyway. It is sad that we are a reaction community rather than a proactive one. Turner, your skunk stripe is really shining on this one!

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  • Nemo1

    This article just shows how much smoke Charles Turner and crew can blow to cover themselves and sweep it under the rug. The child, parents and children of the school know the truth on what happened. None of the children have NEVER been told what to do or not to do when it comes to the doors or the claim security system. I ask Turner and crew to show THEIR policy on this system in the school system policy manual that was issued the first of the school year. Teachers have been seen doing the same thing this kid did and NO action was taken towards the teachers. So how is it fair for a child who was being polite, and was never told about the policy, suffer from a action teachers do?

    A $10k security system for what? Per school? A waste of money? Thats another situation. As Turner stated in the article “It was so well received by our parents.” Yeah I would say that also in this situation to blow smoke and sweep it under the rug. There has been a situation or 2 of elementary students getting locked out of the school before. Considering the roads these schools are located on is that a good thing?

    Why dont the Tidewater News ask all the parents of kids in the schools their side of the story?

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  • Andrijana

    The kid was unlucky enough to be overly nice and polite, and used to set example for all other who would for any reason attempt to mess up with security system. I am all for keeping our kids safe at schools but it seems that we are relying to much on electronics and security systems. Where in all of that is human factor, and personal that watch all those monitors? (And doors) Imagine next scenario. You are choking and falling on your knees in front of the same door. Someone is misfortunate enough to witness your misshap but knowing his record will be in bad shape if he helps you wright away, decides to go all the way around. Or will he?!? Good luck to you! Application of any rule require some common sense.

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