Manchester Officials Hold Meeting to Answer Questions about the Gun Found last week at Westwood Middle

Manchester Police Chief Mark Yother (left) stands beside Manchester Director of Schools Lee Wilkerson during Wednesday’s meeting… Photo by Rob Clutter

On Thursday Sept. 14 a student at Manchester’s Westwood Middle School (WMS) reported that another student was in possession of a handgun.
In a press release the following day, Manchester City Schools Director Lee Wilkerson said that school administrators immediately investigated and discovered an unloaded handgun in the possession of a student. Administrators immediately contacted the Manchester Police Department who confiscated the weapon and began an investigation.
WMSR and the public learned during a meeting with parents, school leaders and police on Wednesday that school leaders began questioning a student last Thursday about the gun, but the student was allowed to stay in class while the investigation continued. We also learned that while it was true that the gun was unloaded, school administration also located a loaded six-round magazine. The gun was found inside a sleeve in the student’s hoodie.
During the meeting on Wednesday, parents asked several questions including; “Why did media get notified before parents? School answer; letters were sent home with students the same day. Next time, if anything like this happens again they would use the notify me phone app for notification.
Parent question; What was the gun holder’s intent? Answer, we think he was showing off and showed no signs of anger or bullying intent.
Parent question; Why was child sent back to class after being questioned? Answer, that was a mistake and our policy is under review for better tactics.
Parent question; Why was there no lockdown? Answer, we are redoing a safety plan to include elements that better protect students.
Parent question; Why did the police not lock down the school? Police answer; The school is the one who makes that decision. The gun was found near the end of the school day.
Parent question; are you all not trained for these type situations? Answer, we admit it took too long to find the weapon and are going to work to have a better plan for the future. All school staff will be retrained in safety and procedures for this and any type incident involving student safety.
Parent question to Manchester Police Chief Mark Yother; What would it take to get an SRO (Student Resource Officer) at Westwood Middle School? Yother said, “We are in the city schools with walkthroughs. He said that adding an SRO would be a board decision.
Parent question; Are backpacks allowed into class? Answer, going forward, backpacks will stay in lockers.
Parent question; Is there a plan to address the students about this matter? Answer, we plan to address the student body about this matter. We want to encourage students to always be willing to notify staff of safety concerns.
Director Wilkerson assured parents that lessons were learned and changes would take place with how these situations are handled. He added that student safety is always their first priority.