As threats increase in area schools, criminal justice expert provides advice in dealing with a violent threat

Roanoke Valley News

(WFXR) — Law enforcement officers around the Roanoke Valley are investigating after rumors of potential threats at three local high schools this week.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Salem school officials say they investigated a threat made by a student about bringing a weapon to Salem High School.

Then, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, the Buena Vista Police Department announced they were aware of allegations of a possible threat against Parry McCluer High School.

In addition, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is reportedly investigating an incident at Franklin County High School after school administration learned of a potential threat. However, authorities determined there was no threat to student safety.

Reports indicate that since Sept 20, more than 25 schools in the Commonwealth have been under investigation after threats of violence were made on either students or staff.

Criminal justice expert, Dr. Tod Burke, says we need stronger education on shooter safety.

“If you see something, say something, even if you think it is not important. Even if you think it is minor, even if you think they are joking, take every threat seriously,” said Dr. Burke.

There are various tools that teachers, faculty, and students can view online to better understand how to deal with dangerous threats.

One website — Avoid, Deny, and Defend — teaches people to increase their awareness and protect themselves.

“Avoid” means to pay attention to your surroundings and have an exit plan. “Deny” is when you tell students to keep their distance and try to make the room look empty.

The last resort is to defend. You can use whatever you can find within reach and defend yourself, if you can’t avoid or deny.

Dr. Burke says police also play an important role.

“Investigate! Police want to determine if this threat is credible. Then you want to work with school officials because you need a robust working relationship between the police and school officials,” said Dr. Burke.

However, it doesn’t stop there. He says that schools should have their own role in student safety.

“You need to have strong working threat assessment programs at the schools. That also means collaborating with the schools, the police, and mental health officials,” explained Dr. Burke. “You need to have strong working threat assessment programs at the schools. That also means collaborating with the schools, the police, and mental health officials.”

The Virginia Department of Education also has a different set of protocols for parents, and students to read through in the case of an active threat, which can be viewed by clicking here.

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