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Update from Superintendent White about School Safety Recommendations and Options

Dear RCPS Families and Staff Members,

In my letter dated June 5, 2022, I promised to continue communicating with you as we consider changes and enhancements with respect to school safety. As was announced at the June 14 School Board meeting, the School Board held a retreat on Friday, June 18, where my staff and I made a presentation on school safety. To that end, I want to provide you with an update regarding the recommendations and options that we presented to the School Board. A copy of the presentation can be found by clicking here. This presentation also includes information on budget implications for the implementation of both the recommendations and the additional options for the school Board’s consideration.

How We Arrived at Our Recommendations

The recommendations and options we presented to the School Board were the results of conversations, research, and community feedback. With regard to the research, we partnered with the EAB (Education Advisory Board) on best practices for school safety. Additionally, the input we received from the Safety Summit in April and the School Resource Officer Memorandum of Understanding public input period also helped to inform the recommendations and options presented to the School Board during the retreat. 

Recommendations

The presentation linked above provides a complete overview of the recommendations made to the School Board. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Adding more School Resources Officers (SRO), so that every school has a dedicated, full-time SRO.
  • Implementing a safety tip line that is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students, families, or community members will be able to call, text, or email concerns regarding school safety or student well-being.
  • Investments in infrastructure, such as adding more cameras, replacing antiquated classroom door lock sets, adding automated lockdown systems during school renovations or new construction, and enclosing all remaining open classrooms.
  • Identification badges for students to enable staff to easily identify those who do or do not belong in the school.
  • Restructuring of Student Support Services to reallocate positions to schools, including additional Behavior Specialists who will directly support students and provide additional staff training.
  • Expansion of community partnerships and services, including increasing mental health supports.
  • Distinguishing and clarifying our mass notification (robocall) system protocols with staff and families to ensure messages are received.
  • Launching a parent/guardian-initiated language interpretation service that will be available by phone or video.
  • Advocacy for legislative changes, including additional parent/adult accountability when minors gain access to firearms.

Options for the School Board’s Consideration

In addition to the recommendations outlined during the presentation, including those listed above, we also provided information to the School Board on additional options for their consideration.  The pros and cons were presented for the following options:

  • Use of police canines for both random and specific vehicle, locker, and bag searches.
  • Installation of panic alarms, buttons, or fobs in classrooms.
  • Use of clear bags in schools by students.
  • Use of metal-detecting wands, walk-through metal detectors, and/or artificial intelligence (AI) technology for school entry screenings and for use in middle and high schools during the school day.

I know there are many in our community who are on both sides of these options, particularly those related to the use of clear bags and metal detectors.  For clear bags, the benefits that were discussed with the School Board, included greater awareness of what was being brought into school. The concerns over clear bags were related to student privacy.  Regarding AI technology and metal detectors, while some stakeholders expressed the benefit of a system that could potentially identify weapons, others expressed concerns over staffing requirements, location limitations (detectors can only be placed at a few doors), and a false sense of security. 

What’s Next

During the upcoming special meeting of the School Board on Tuesday, June 28th, the School Board is expected to vote on the 2022-2023 proposed budget.  As part of the budget vote, the Board will dedicate nearly a half-million dollars toward implementing additional safety measures, including infrastructure and human resources. The itemization of safety measures to be implemented, based on available funding, will be discussed at the July 12th meeting.

As we have throughout this process, we would like to provide you with the opportunity to provide your input regarding the recommendations and options proposed by July 5th on the form below or by clicking hereYour feedback will be shared with the School Board to help inform our path forward.

I want to again thank all who have contributed feedback and insight throughout this process, including parents, teachers, staff, and community members. I would also like to thank you for your input, your advocacy, and your support of our students and everyone in Roanoke City Public Schools. I know together, we make a positive difference for our students and our city. We are one!

Thank you,
Verletta White
Superintendent, Roanoke City Public Schools


40 Douglass Avenue NW, Roanoke, VA 24012 Phone 540-853-2502