Published Online: July 1, 2010

Detroit Schools Boost Security Year After Shooting

The one day Emmanuel Gannaway left summer school early and took a different route home may have saved his life.

His mother, Marytina Gannaway, said her son usually caught the bus at the stop near Cody Ninth Grade Academy, where gunmen opened fire and wounded seven teenagers a year ago Wednesday. But he had only one class that day, and was home by the time his mother heard news of the shooting.

"I was crazy," Marytina Gannaway said, referring to how she felt at the time. "I didn't want him to go back to that school the next day."

At the one-year anniversary, the case remains unsolved, with what police say are two shooters and a getaway driver still at large.

Since the incident, Detroit police have been working to mitigate the violence that has extended from the streets into school hallways. And while officials say in-school violence is decreasing, some students and parents say the safety changes haven't been enough.

"I feel safe at school," said Emmanuel Gannaway, who will be a senior at Cody High School. "But we do need more security."

That need may be partially met this year.

The district plans to invest $41.7 million in upgraded security equipment, including new surveillance cameras and alarm systems at schools. Each high school will get 100 cameras placed in stairwells, hallways, parking lots, entrances and other parts of the school, the district said. K-8 schools will get 32 cameras each and elementary schools, 24 cameras.

Enhanced surveillance is a tactic to keep outsiders from entering the school to start trouble, said Detroit Public Schools Police Chief Roderick Grimes.

The alarm systems, he said, will send a signal to officers when a door is breached.

"That will give us somewhere to start the investigations on who got into our buildings unauthorized," Grimes said.

The district also has increased the number of metal detectors at school entrances, and Detroit police boosted patrols in some school neighborhoods.

Improving school safety is an issue for districts across the nation. Chicago recently unveiled a plan to spend $25 million in federal funds on school safety programs.

Joseph Williams, a parent group leader at Henry Ford High School, said Detroit schools need armed police officers on street corners during arrival and dismissal times.

"We have to stand up and we have to do something," Williams said. "I don't feel like our children are safe at school."

A group of Henry Ford parents filed a lawsuit this year against the school district for an Oct. 16, 2008, shooting that killed one teen and wounded three others. The suit claims school officials failed to prevent the attack near the school, which followed a fight inside the building earlier that day.

Detroit schools spokesman Steve Wasko declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Williams, 53, said districts are not solely accountable for school violence.

"Parents are the only (people) who can regulate their kids," Williams said. "Our children have to become our top priority."

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