PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Stepping up safety in schools is one of the goals for the Petersburg school system, which is already making changes on school grounds.
The district brought on a new liaison to serve as a link between the police department and the school district. They’re hoping it will help cut down on discipline problems and improve grades.
Cyberbullying to students searching pornography in the classroom - school officials covered it all at the launch of a parent and community forum Tuesday.
"She’s a 9th grader going to the high school, her first dance, but as a parent, I’m concerned about the safety of her,” grandparent Wanda Taliaferro said.
"We didn’t have telephones when I was in school and if something happened to me, they got in touch with my mom,” parent Cassandra Roberts chimed in.
Parents with valid concerns spoke out and listened as Petersburg leaders unveil their plans to step up safety.
"I don’t want them to have to worry about being safe. I want them to worry about their classwork,” said Sgt. Greg Battle.
He’s a former homicide detective who’s now taking the lead in serving as a liaison between police and schools. He says it’s not necessarily about punishing students but finding new ways to engage them and finding alternatives to expulsion or criminal charges when possible.
“We don’t want to give kids criminal records. That’s not what we’re there for,” he said.
School officials say police can also play a role when students make threats online.
"The police department can monitor all social media, assist us as a school system because they can actually track who posted the threat within an hour,” Superintendent Maria Pitre-Martin said.
This comes as school staff members are constantly monitoring what students are doing online while in the classroom. Recently, a district official noticed a child tried to open pornography.
"This is typical. This is not something that’s like ‘Wow.’ Kids are kids,” Amy Stewart said.
Her job is to monitor this activity in schools. She says there are restrictions in place blocking access. An alert is sent to the district office, which then notifies the school.
As Petersburg Schools does its part, there's now an open call for parents to do theirs.
"When we have PTAs, none of the parents are really there,” Roberts added.
Petersburg Schools will hold monthly forums where the public is invited. Future forums will focus on the special education process, literacy, trauma and resiliency, and requested topics.
The next forum will take place on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Petersburg Library.
For updates on future forums, monitor the school system’s website.
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