W.Va. Board of Education hears leaders speak on new school safety measures
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Board of Education met Wednesday morning and put a top priority on school safety measures.
The Department of Education has been working with multiple agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the School Building Authority, and the Department of Health and Human Resources to enhance the policies in place for school safety.
“That’s the purpose of the ongoing collaboration; he’s continued to gather information. We’re continuing to have these collaborative meetings so that we are all clear and on the same page as what we’re doing,” said Jonah Adkins, coordinator for the office of accountability.
He says many initiatives are already in place including the One Caring Adult program, WVDE Safe Schools Toolkit, and the Office of Student Support and Well-Being.
“We have the supports in place we’ve had the supports in place to ensure that the needs of the whole child are met,” Adkins said.
Each year, it is required by state code for schools to submit a crisis response plan to Homeland Security. Adkins said in the last two years these submissions have increased, but previously schools have not submitted them.
WSAZ asked if it’s going to be a priority moving forward to make sure school districts are submitting these plans.
“That is correct. We are actually adding that to our state accountability system for schools,” Adkins said. “If those plans are late or not submitted at all, that will reflect negatively on the on the efficiency indicators for county boards of education.”
Board of Education President Miller Hall says if there is no crisis response plan in place, there should be no school.
“If you don’t have it, shame on you, because that’s telling me and it’s telling the public, why don’t you have a plan to protect my son and daughter when they walk into the school?” Hall said.
West Virginia State Police troopers say they are speaking with Homeland Security to create a uniform statewide plan for all law enforcement agencies.
Troopers say agencies can be trained different ways for active shooter situations and a statewide plan could eliminate some chaos at the scene.
“Sometimes the smallest and simplest of thing, if done in a uniform fashion where we’re all speaking the same language, can save seconds, and seconds can save lives in these types of situations,” said state police Cpl. Harris. “I can’t be waiting for approval from some higher up. It has to be the recognition that we have an incident where lives are in jeopardy and I have to go now. I have to locate and identify the threat and end the threat and save as many lives as possible.”
Captain Harper says the most important thing to note is communication and information. He says designating a certain person at each school to talk to law enforcement is key.
He also says it’s important to report anything you think could be a threat.
“Several incidents that have been prevented because of the way West Virginia and the way our educators are as far as seeing something and saying something,” Harper said.
Adkins says Homeland Security is also creating a statewide app for kids who feel more comfortable texting a concern instead of calling a hotline.
Adkins also says it’s important to practice any crisis plan in place and make it known that school safety is everyone’s responsibility.
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