So far this school year, GW reports 10 assault incidents to Danville police (2023)

Charles Wilborn

The day after Labor Day, a fight broke out at George Washington High School during a lunch period.

An official — described only as the director of safety and security — stepped in to break it up.

He was knocked down and his gun exposed.

A security officer quickly recovered the weapon.

That episode was explained in a Facebook post by the school later that night after “rumors and video” circulated about the incident. It just so happens that an ambulance was at the school at the same time responding to a medical emergency for an employee, adding fuel to an already tense social media situation.

This ordeal played also out two weeks after a gun was found on campus.

As of Sept. 9 — about a month into the new school year — the Danville Police Department was notified of 20 incidents reported at GW. That amounts to one-third of the total number — 60 — reported for the whole of the previous school year.

People are also reading…

That doesn’t mean a police vehicle was dispatched to the school for each incident. Reported incidents range from things like assaults to found drugs.

The juvenile found with the weapon Aug. 23 was physically arrested, Danville Police Department Capt. Steve Richardson explained to the Register & Bee. So far this year, nine others have been charged on a juvenile petition for counts related to assault.

“Some may have been physically arrested and some released, but those terms are decided by the juvenile intake officers,” Richardson said. “One incident is still active, and a petition is being sought for assault, which the intake will decide on.”

Half of the 20 incidents GW reported to Danville police so far this year involve some form of assault. Two occurred on the day the school system posted about a fight involving the safety director being knocked to the ground and his weapon dislodged from a holster.

Last school year, 36 assault reports were relayed to the police department.

The Danville Register & Bee requested data on altercations so far this year and also ones last year.

“Anecdotally, administrators report 10-14 physical altercations this school year to date,” Lanie Davis, a spokesperson for Danville Public Schools, told the Register & Bee on Friday. “Otherwise, our information system does not provide a report of incident data.”

School leaders aren’t sure the root cause of these fights that were a problem even before the pandemic turned the education world upside down.

“An analysis of the causes has not yet been conducted,” Davis said.

When asked how many injuries have occurred this year at the hands of physical altercations, Davis confirmed there were “multiple injuries in school daily,” in an email, but said the school system did not have data available on the cause of those injuries.

Stepping up protection

After the weapon discovery on GW’s campus last month, school officials have stepped up security efforts. That includes metal detectors at every entrance.

Before that incident, there were detectors in use since classes resumed Aug. 8, Davis said. However, in that situation “students were chosen to go through at intervals, such as every 10th student for example,” she said.

In the hours and days after the gun was found, the Danville Police Department beefed up presence in the school.

“The police department has school resource officers assigned to George Washington High School and a School Safety Support program where officers randomly walk through schools around the city when time permits to add another layer of security and deterrence,” Richardson explained. “The firearm being on school grounds was an unfortunate incident, but the planning, training, and preparation to respond to critical incidents or any criminal matter are in place to allow for a planned response to any emergency at George Washington High School.”

Danville police take a close look at all threats and adjust the response accordingly.

“The single incident did not change the preparedness to respond, but much intelligence gathering, and sharing has occurred this school year to ensure a proper level of police presence is at the school,” Richardson said.

The role of police

While the Danville Police Department is a partner with Danville Public Schools, there’s a wide range of responsibilities — and limits — for all involved.

For example, school resource officers and members of the police force have to stay within the confines of state and federal law when it comes to search and detention, according to Richardson.

“School Resource Officers and sworn police personnel can only become involved in violations of law within the school setting while school administrators, school security officers, and teachers are responsible for school discipline,” he explained.

Simply put, for police, they must follow standards for probable cause. School officials, on the other hand, have what Richardson described as “lower thresholds for working to secure schools” as they feel is appropriate.

“The Danville Police Department identifies threats, investigates criminal activity, and acts to ensure the safety of everyone within the school should a threat become apparent,” Richardson wrote in a statement. “When the school leadership requests a matter be handled criminally or when a criminal matter occurs in front of an officer, school resource officers handle those cases as criminal incidents and obtain juvenile petitions when appropriate.”

The solution

Behavior issues have plagued the Danville high school for years. In 2015, a student wrote a letter to the editor the newspaper published detailing ways teens would talk over teachers, check phones and walk over desks.

A year later, Danville Public Schools pointed to progress with a drop in discipline referrals.

Then in 2021, worried parents voiced concern to Superintendent Angela Hairston over growing problems. That particular meeting at GW’s auditorium was scheduled to focus on the opening of schools. However, it came days after Danville police were summoned to GW for a fight.

Parents attending that meeting last year pointed to the ongoing altercations. One compared a fight in the school’s gym — captured on video and circulated through social media channels — to watching a boxing match at home.

When it comes to gangs, Danville police are working to avert activity in the streets and schools. However, Davis said the school system does not track gang members.

“The Danville Police Department Gang and Violent Crime Unit meets with community partners including the school system to identify youth who may be a threat and deter gang activity through diversion,” Richardson told the Register & Bee.

As far as changes now, Davis pointed to more mental health avenues in addition to security precautions.

“We are focusing on peer mediation and conflict management programs, as well as investing in student access to mental health services and working with our community partners to help prevent community violence,” she told the newspaper. “We have provided mentors for students, and there’s been an increase in video surveillance.”

The Danville Police Department also takes a proactive approach, Richardson said.

“SROs and Danville Youth Engagement Officers engage with the youth at GWHS to build trust, gather threat information, provide services to youth dealing with critical issues, de-escalate ongoing issues before they become a threat and provide options to gang members, all which are aimed at increasing the safety of the school,” he said.



  • Steve Richardson
  • Danville Police Department Gang
  • School System
  • Danville
  • School
  • Crime
  • Law
  • Education
  • Officer
  • Student
  • Davis
  • Weapon
  • Official
  • Fight

Want to see more like this?

Get our local education coverage delivered directly to your inbox.

Charles Wilborn

(434) 791-7976

  • Author email
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 03/27/2023

Views: 5756

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-03-23

Address: 74183 Thomas Course, Port Micheal, OK 55446-1529

Phone: +13408645881558

Job: Global Representative

Hobby: Sailing, Vehicle restoration, Rowing, Ghost hunting, Scrapbooking, Rugby, Board sports

Introduction: My name is Geoffrey Lueilwitz, I am a zealous, encouraging, sparkling, enchanting, graceful, faithful, nice person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.