ROANOKE, Va. – In the wake of recent threats of violence at public schools in the city of Roanoke, Superintendent Verletta White announced how she plans to move forward safely.
It comes after a threat was made against Preston Park Primary School last week. Then on Friday, rumors quickly surfaced on social media that threats of violence had been made against William Fleming High School. However, upon investigation, authorities later determined that the threat was not credible.
The events of the past week have left many parents in fear and caused much anxiety, especially as the United States continues to mourn the 21 lives lost in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in ‘Uvalde about two weeks ago.
Now White is talking about the steps they will take to keep the school safe.
“The safety of our students is always our priority. We are dedicated and committed to nurturing a positive and inclusive school climate,” White said in a letter. “We seek to build on the relationships we have in the community, which help make the City of Roanoke Public Schools a positive and safe learning environment.”
Officials plan to discuss “several potential additions” to their safety resources and protocols at upcoming school board meetings, some of which will include:
A new safety advice system
Entry procedures for new students
New School Resource Officers
Expanding Access to Mental Health
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 14 at Patrick Henry High School.
See Superintendent Verletta White’s full letter below:
Dear RCPS Families and Staff,
As we head into the final week of the school year, we know the past month has been difficult for our city and for communities across the country as we face the continuing threat of gun violence in schools and the aftermath of the mass shootings that shook us deeply.
Last week, Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) responded to several incidents involving threats of violence which understandably raised significant concern and uncertainty. It is important to remember that we always strive to share as much information as possible without impacting criminal investigations or violating student privacy laws. Although we have worked hard to communicate quickly and accurately with our school families over the past week, we know that our efforts have not completely allayed your fears. RCPS has received many questions about what we are doing to keep our students and staff safe in our schools, and I would like to answer them here.
What do we do?
The safety of our students is always our priority. We are dedicated and committed to nurturing a positive and inclusive school climate. We seek to build on the relationships we have in the community, which help make the City of Roanoke Public Schools a positive and safe learning environment.
This includes the importance of the “See Something, Say Something” approach, which remains our most effective tool for identifying and stopping instances of violence. When we become aware of serious threats, we use many tools to communicate with parents, including social media, our website (www.rcps.info), email, text and robocalls at (540) 777.0876. One of the most important things you can do to ensure you receive important notifications is to add this number to your contacts and let us know if your contact information changes.
As a school system, we are focused on the social and emotional well-being of our students, as well as the physical safety of our school buildings. Our annually updated security plan requires our faculty, staff and students to regularly practice what to do in the event of a threat, emergency or lockdown situation, and our staff are trained to assess and triage several emergency scenarios. This training, combined with our strong school network of school psychologists, school counsellors, school social workers, school resource officers, and student support and behavior specialists, provides a stable framework for success.
How are we progressing?
We know you’re eager to hear about what we can change for the future. We will be addressing several potential additions to our safety resources and protocols at upcoming Roanoke City School Board meetings, which will include discussions on:
-New state-of-the-art security system
– Mobile phone notification app
-Student entry procedures
– Hire additional behavior and support specialists
– Expand community partnerships, such as mental health supports and additional school resource workers
-Distinguish and clarify our robocall and emergency alert protocols
-Include outsourced partners (e.g. Durham School Services and Sodexo) in our robocall system
-Legislative advocacy for greater parent/student accountability.
Additionally, studies show that when children are positively connected to their school community, they are less likely to exhibit problematic behaviors. Therefore, we are launching new programming this summer to keep students connected and safe. We will have arts and sports enrichment camps for our students in grades 5-8 where they will be invited to participate in drama and various sports.
During the summer months, we will continue to communicate with our families about policy and procedure changes and what to expect for the 2022-2023 school year. For questions or comments about what we are doing to keep our schools and students safe, please call (540) 853.1393 or email [email protected]
While it has been a difficult time, let us not forget that it is also a joyful time as we seek to celebrate our graduates and our entire student body for their accomplishments over the past year.
We know you’re worried and we’re doing everything we can to maintain your trust and create positive change in our schools and community. We also ask you not to let fear cloud this important time for our students. Thank you to our students, families, teachers, staff, administrators and partners for your continued support and collaboration, and for stepping up to keep our schools safe. As you know, our schools are a microcosm of our community, and these safety issues are not just isolated to our schools. Solving the violence in our community requires everyone to do their part, and I know that together we will make a difference. We are RCPS. We are a!
Superintendent, City of Roanoke Public Schools
Superintendent Verletta White
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