Center for School and Campus Safety rolls out programs to safeguard Va. schools

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 8:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The commonwealth is no stranger to mass shootings, from the Virginia Beach office shooting in 2019 to the Virginia Tech shooting more than a decade prior. In the wake of the elementary school mass shooting in Texas, Donna Michaelis with the State Center of School and Campus Safety says the past has been a harsh teacher.

“It’s a tragedy, obviously, and unfortunately, from both these national tragedies and tragedies here in Virginia, we’ve learned a lot of difficult lessons,” Michaelis said.

Lessons Michaelis says the state is still learning from.

“Virginia has responded proactively with good legislation, great programs, training, and resources, but also some great programming that we’re rolling out,” Michaelis said.

Some of that includes reinforcing programs like threat assessment teams in K12 schools, which are essentially early intervention programs for children who are in or suspected to be in crisis.

“We were the first state in the nation to require threat assessment teams in K12 schools, and that occurred after the incident at Sandy Hook,” Michaelis said. “We’re also the only state in the nation to require threat assessment in both K12 and Higher Ed, and we’re getting ready to roll out a program to offer behavioral threat assessment teams to the community so that they will have a place to report abhorrent behavior and concerns.”

The state also wants to standardize how law enforcement responds to school emergencies.

“We’re also rolling out what we called the standard response protocols and Standard Reunification Method,” Michaelis said. “The Center for School and Campus Safety is offering it free of charge for schools to allow for uniform language and uniform response mechanisms, so no matter where you are in Virginia, they’ll be on the same page.”

To that end, the state is offering money to school districts that create digital floor plans of their buildings to help law enforcement in an emergency. That grant program is being rolled out in conjunction with House Bill 741, which will go into effect this summer. The law requires each school district in the state to create a detailed and accurate floor plan for each public school building in the local school division or certify that the existing floor plan for each such school is sufficiently clear and precise.

According to the law, there is no requirement that the floor plans be made digital, but Michaelis says in the days since the shooting in Uvalde, the center has seen an influx of school districts looking to take part in the running grant program.

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