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Roanoke City schools to discuss safety measures, protocols following recent threats

ROANOKE, Va. – In the wake of recent threats of violence in Roanoke City Public Schools, Superintendent Verletta White has announced how they plan to move forward safely.

This comes after a threat was made against Preston Park Elementary School last week. Then on Friday, rumors quickly surfaced on social media that there had been threats of violence made toward William Fleming High School. However, after investigating, authorities later determined that the threat was not credible.

Last week’s events left many parents in fear and caused much anxiety, especially as the US continues to mourn over the 21 lives lost in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde roughly two weeks ago.

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Now, White is speaking out about the steps they will take to ensure school safety.

“The safety of our students is always our priority. We are dedicated and determined to nurture a positive and inclusive school climate,” White said in a letter. “We are looking to build upon the relationships we have in the community, which contribute to making Roanoke City Public Schools a positive, safe learning environment.”

Officials plan to discuss “several potential additions” to their safety resources and protocols in upcoming school board meetings, some of which will include:

  • A new safety tip system

  • Additional cameras

  • New student entry procedures

  • 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 Members,

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 cope with the ongoing threat of gun violence in schools and the aftermath of mass shooting events that have shaken us to our core.

Last week, Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) responded to several incidents involving threats of violence that understandably caused significant concern and uncertainty. It is important to remember that we always strive to share as much information as we can without impacting criminal investigations or violating student privacy laws. While we worked hard to communicate quickly and accurately with our school families last week, we know that our efforts did not fully calm your fears. RCPS has received many questions about what we are doing to ensure the safety of our students and staff in our schools, and I would like to address that here.

What are we doing?

The safety of our students is always our priority. We are dedicated and determined to nurture a positive and inclusive school climate. We are looking to build upon the relationships we have in the community, which contribute to making Roanoke City Public Schools a positive, 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, there are many tools we use to communicate with parents, including social media, our website (www.rcps.info), email, text, and robocalls from (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 notify us if your contact information changes.

As a school system, we are focused on addressing both the social and emotional well-being of our students, as well as the physical security of our school buildings. Our annually updated safety plan requires our faculty, staff, and students to regularly practice what to do in case of a threat, emergency, or lockdown situation, and our staff is trained to assess and triage multiple emergency scenarios. This training, combined with our strong in-school network of school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, school resource officers, and student support and behavior specialists, provides a stable framework for success.

How do we move forward?

We know you are anxious for information now about what we can change for the future. We will be addressing several potential additions to our safety resources and protocols at upcoming meetings of the Roanoke City School Board that will include discussion of:

-New safety tip system

-Notification cell phone app

-Additional cameras

-Student entry procedures

-Hiring additional behavior and support specialists

-Expanding community partnerships, such as mental health supports and additional school resource officers

-Distinguishing and clarifying our robocall and emergency alert system protocols

– Including outsourced partners (eg Durham School Services and Sodexo) in our robocall system

-Legislative advocacy for greater parent/student accountability.

In addition, studies show that when kids are positively connected to their school community they are less likely to become involved in problematic behavior. Therefore, we are launching new programming this summer to keep students connected and safe. We will have arts and athletic enrichment camps for our rising 5th through 8th graders where they will be invited to participate in theater and various sports.

What’s next?

In the summer months, we will continue to communicate with our families about changes to policy and procedure 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 info@rcps.info.

While this has been a difficult time, let’s not forget that it is also a joyful time as we look to celebrate our graduates and our entire student body for their accomplishments over the past year.

We know you are concerned, and we are doing everything. We can maintain your confidence and create positive change in our schools and community. We also ask you not to let fear overshadow 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 rallying together to keep our schools safe. As you know, our schools are a microcosm of our community, and these safety concerns are not just isolated to our schools. Solving violence in our community requires everyone to do their part, and I know together we will make a difference. We are RCPS. We are one!

Thank you,

Verletta White

Superintendent, Roanoke City Public Schools

Superintendent Verletta White

Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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