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14-year-old charged with gun possession at Alexandria high school

2 min

A high school in Alexandria was locked down Monday morning after a teacher discovered a 14-year-old student with an unloaded handgun, city officials said.

Police said the student at Alexandria City High School was charged with possession of a firearm on school property.

Peter Balas, the executive principal, said in a message to students’ families that “the weapon was immediately secured” around 9:15 a.m., minutes after a teacher at the school’s Minnie Howard campus alerted administrators.

The lockdown lasted about an hour while police investigated “with the student involved,” Balas said. Officials did not name the student, citing a Virginia law that prevents them from identifying minors.

“The safety and security of our students and staff are of utmost priority,” Balas said. School officials declined further comment.

The charge comes as Alexandria officials are weighing whether to install metal detectors in the city’s middle and high school campuses, while also debating the proper role for school resource officers. The City Council voted to remove school resource officers in May 2021, then reinstated their funding in October amid concerns about student safety.

The Alexandria school board is scheduled to hear a request for the metal detectors at its March 16 meeting. Officials are seeking public comment on the proposal through Wednesday.

“The use of weapons screening equipment within our schools will support in the reduction of weapons entering our school facilities,” Alicia Hart, chief of facilities and operations for Alexandria public schools, said in a statement.

According to Alexandria’s most recent school safety report, 46 public school students were arrested and 28 weapons were seized in the 2021-2022 academic year.

Just before the end of that school year, an 18-year-old senior at Alexandria City High School, Luis Mejia Hernandez, was fatally stabbed in what police described as a brawl outside a McDonald’s close to the campus where students would congregate.

The current academic year began with heightened safety measures across the city’s public schools, officials said, including security officers, a new requirement that students and staff members display IDs, and increased supervision of students during lunch.