Roanoke City Public Schools hosts discussion on school safety

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:24 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “As a superintendent, as a teacher, as a mom, there isn’t anything more important to me than school safety,” said Verletta White, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools.

Safety. That’s what 13 leaders inside and out of the Roanoke community came together to talk about at RCPS’s Safety Summit Wednesday.

“We’ve heard from parents saying that we need to make sure that we are maintaining that social-emotional support by our school counselors and social workers,” said White.

The pandemic’s impact on mental health came up often in the discussion.

“Our kids were hurting. They were alone, they were isolated, they were terrified. So the idea of us looking at safety now, if you look at internal safety as a youth, they were not getting that need met,” said Heather Gunn, a licensed counselor with Blue Ridge Behavior Health.

But there has also been support from parents and Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea about other ways to address safety in schools, like metal detectors.

White read a comment from parent that said, “one comment from the input we received prior to the summit stated metal detectors should be mandatory in every school, including elementary schools.”

National expert Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, said there has been some research about metal detectors and feels they might not be the best route. But he believes those are discussions RCPS will need to have.

“I think those are the conversations that the community leaders and the district need to have here and think about how would this be implemented. Because you don’t want to see a school district and community invest very limited resources in something that’s going to create security theater, that you’re not going to be able to implement thoroughly on a 24/7 basis.”

Instead, Trump said research shows in-school and community relationships are the best ways to address the issue. It’s an idea mirrored by city leaders who said it’s important the community is working together.

“We truly understand that this is a community issue and I am so grateful that we as a city are tackling the problem as a community as well,” said Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman.

For RCPS this discussion won’t stop here. But they do believe it’s a good start.

“We say that we are one and that’s what this looks like. When our school officials, city officials, the national experts and community come together to really discuss the issues that matter, that’s the measure of success for us.”

You can find the full discussion video at RCPS’s YouTube page here.

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