ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke City Public Schools held its virtual School Safety Summit Wednesday night. A panel of local, regional, and national experts was invited to participate just days after a gun was fired inside Lucy Addison Middle School in March.
Officials allowed public input to help guide the panel’s conversation about keeping students safe.
Superintendent Verletta White said in a press conference before the meeting that the night was not about making an immediate decision, but learning more to inform the decisions they’ll be making along the way and identifying gaps in their practices. She added that another objective of the summit also involved transparency with the community and creating a conversation that included community members.
“We want to make sure that overall, we’re being thoughtful, that we’re being careful and responsible in our planning approach,” White said.
White led the panel discussion alongside 12 experts in security, education, counseling, and community outreach.
Talks quickly arrived to the topic of metal detectors — a popular subject in community input.
Ken Trump is president of National School Safety and Security Services and has worked with Roanoke City Schools for 15 years.
“We automatically see that tendency for that fast food,” said Trump. “I want a quick answer, I want more security, I wanna see that physical, tangible thing, but the question I ask is, ‘is that effective or is it security theatre?'”
He brought up one of the key themes of the night: a comprehensive approach. That includes physical security like metal detectors, alongside student/staff relationships.
“A basic greeting can prevent or intervene more than a consequence through the justice system,” said Hayley Poland, assistant superintendent of equity and student services with the district.
She says they’ve worked with Blue Ridge Behavioral Health, as well as the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator Chris Roberts, who works to create opportunities and support in the community on a case-by-case basis.
“The schools get exactly the best that a parent can send. They get what a parent can send that day,” said Roberts.
Poland and Roberts, as well as other panelists, said that support can be built for those families and in the community.
The meeting concluded with a comment from School Board Chair Lutheria Smith. She addressed parents who want more to be done.
“For those folks who are so pro-metal detectors — who hear relationships, and all the things we need to do, and hear…well, we’re doing all these things and still a child brought a gun in,” said White. “But that was one time or a couple of times. We don’t hear about all of the things that are prevented from happening [and] all the good work that we’re doing that are preventing things from happening.”
You can watch the Safety Summit on the RCPS YouTube page.