VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Parents and teachers across the country, including here in Hampton Roads, are grappling with the news of the school mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that has killed 19 children and two adults.
Some parents took to social media to express their feelings.
On the Virginia Beach Schools Facebook page, one parent commented under a post about summer school, writing “Are you going to protect our kids?” Another commented, “Y’all need police in every school at the entrance, waiting… make it happen.”
News 3 has reached out to the Virginia Beach school district to see if they have additional security or if it’s experiencing a larger-than-usual number of students or teachers absent.
Kathleen Slinde, President of the Virginia Beach Education Association told News 3, “It’s devastating. This should never happen.” She added, “We hope the policies and procedures in place in Virginia Beach are adequate.”
Virginia Beach school district's coordinator of school counseling services, Robert Jamison, said starting Tuesday night, they have let the schools know that additional support is available.
"Even I can say 4th, 5th grade and up, there’s a good chance they’re aware something has happened so as an adult, caregiver, parent or guardian having the opportunity to start that conversation at the appropriate time and right environment is definitely recommended to see what your child already knows," Jamison said.
He says it's important to talk about the ways emergencies are addressed in households.
"We tend to let students take lead on if topics come up. Want to be respectful of where students are in the own processes, " he said.
Jason Nixon, who is now a single parent after losing his wife Kate in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting, is speaking out after the tragedy.
In fact, today, he’s attending a meeting today in Richmond sponsored by the State Inspector General. It’s the Commission on the May 31, 2019, Virginia Beach Mass Shooting Meeting.
Other local school districts have reacted in response to the recent tragedy.
Hampton Public Schools released the following response following the mass shooting:
While we are all devastated over the horrific tragedy in Texas, please know that creating and maintaining safe and nurturing learning environments is part of our division’s strategic plan. As such, we are focused on safety and security on a daily basis.
Below are the layered safety measures the division implements as part of our strategic plan:
- Raptor Visitor Management Technologies to check in all guests
- HCS Emergency Response Plans
- Each school has an HCS Emergency Response/Safety Team
- School Threat Assessment Teams
- Evacuation and lockdown drills
- A iPhone Access Control System (buzzer system at all front doors - audio and visual)
- Camera system (internal and external)
- Radio system at all of our schools
- Panic button system
- Walk-through weapons detection systems used daily at our high schools and have purchased all of the equipment for all additional secondary schools (middle, PreK-8, and our Kilgore Gifted Center) to implement use by no later than the start of next school year
- Hand-held metal detectors at all of our schools (i.e., elementary, middle, high) - used for random searches
- Police canine dog dedicated to HCS through the SRO program - to conduct random narcotic sweeps
- Weapon detection canines through American K-9 Interdiction - to conduct random firearm searches at all secondary schools
- School Security Officers (SSOs) - HCS employees - who receive annual school safety training to include ALICE training and de-escalation techniques
- School Resource Officers (SROs) - Hampton Police Division - SROs are assigned on a full-time basis to all of our middle and high schools during the school year as well as support neighboring HCS elementary schools
- School safety audits and school inspections
- ALICE training provided to all staff at our schools (approximately 2,000 employees) during the 2019-2020 school year. Since the beginning of this current school year, training has been provided to new hires as well as continued annual training for schools throughout the division.
- Safe School Hotline and Tip Text Line 757-504-0921
- Divisionwide CISM team - critical incident stress management team - providing continued training throughout the year to certify additional staff members
In regard to counseling, each of our schools has at least one full-time counselor (with a team of counselors at our secondary schools) that are there to assist students and staff as needed. Additionally, each school has an assigned school psychologist and social worker who are available to assist as needed. We also have our Bridge Program (an internal program) as a tool for students who may need an additional level of mental health support, and HCS has partnered this year with Care Solace to provide an additional layer of care for our community. Care Solace helps individuals (staff, staff member’s families, students, and students’ family members) find mental health care providers and substance use treatment centers. Care Solace is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and 365 days per year.
Chesapeake Public Schools also sent the following message to families:
We were deeply saddened to hear about the tragic school shooting that occurred yesterday at Robb Elementary School in Texas. Our thoughts are with the members of the Uvalde community during this most difficult time. No doubt there will be extensive coverage of this incident on the news and much discussion about it in our communities in the coming days.
I want to assure you that the safety of our students and staff is our top priority and that our school district has a comprehensive crisis plan in place that is routinely reviewed. We work with the Chesapeake Police and Fire Departments to prepare for these types of emergencies and regularly practice our safety procedures with students and staff through discussions and emergency exercises. Together, we want to share with you our proactive approaches to ensuring the safety of students and staff within our school division.
All of our schools have the following precautions in place to ensure a safe learning environment:
- All exterior doors remain locked to limit access points and school security is stationed at the front entrance to run a comprehensive visitor check-in and check-out system.
- All visitors must enter through the main entrance and be buzzed into the school by security. Visitors will have to show a valid ID through a camera system before being permitted to enter the school.
- All visitors to each school building are given a photo identification visitor badge that must be prominently displayed while visiting the school.
- School security cameras are on at all times and supervised by security and school administration.
- School security conducts regular building checks throughout the school day to ensure that all doors remain locked.
In addition to the above safety protocols, the Chesapeake Police Department will be providing an additional police presence on our school campuses and in the surrounding areas throughout the remainder of the school year.
Lastly, parents, please take this time to remind your children that it is important that students, staff, and parents work together in keeping our schools safe. If they “hear something” or “see something” of concern, they should “say something” either to their parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, or another trusted adult. The 24-hour hotline for the Chesapeake Police Department is also available to accept calls at 757-382-6161.
Again, please know that commitment to the safety of our students, employees, and visitors is always our top priority. We appreciate your continued support.
News 3 is gathering more information and will update this story.