Parents at meeting call on school leaders to take action on safety

Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12
Updated: Mar. 28, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico parents are speaking out Wednesday night, telling school leaders more can be done to ensure area schools are safe.

Parents packed the auditorium at Hungary Creek Middle School, not just to learn about the school division's safety plan, but to give their feedback on making it better.

"I don't know how we can expect students to learn if they feel unsafe," said one parent.

"They need to feel safe to learn. They don't need to feel like they're constantly on the threat," said another parent.

It was a chorus of concerns as Henrico leaders invited parents into classrooms to weigh in on what schools can do a better job doing. Several suggested improving who can get inside of school buildings.

"You ring the bell. They say, 'Can I help you?' You say 'I'm going to the main office'...They don't ask who you are, then they let you in. You're on your own to walk up the stairs and then go to the right and actually sign yourself in," said a parent.

Others discussed the pros and cons of school resource officers.

Even Police Chief Humberto Cardounel, Jr. spoke out at Wednesday night's forum, about how often his officers are spending time looking into social media threats that turn out to be bogus. He asked parents to help him help you.

"Social media is without a doubt one of our greatest challenges," said Cardounel. "We are investigating, for example, one or more social media posts a day...every time we chase down a hoax or practical joke of this nature, we run the risk of diverting resources from where we truly need them, and that's protecting your kids."

That's the priority - heightened by recent school shootings nationwide and a scare at Highland Springs High School on Friday. A student was arrested for allegedly having a loaded gun in his backpack.

"The parents have a responsibility to make sure that if you do have a gun in the home, it should be secured," said Sarah Harper with Moms Demand Action.

The Commonwealth's attorney also spoke Wednesday night, saying when it comes to juvenile offenders, there is a preference towards rehabilitation instead of punishment to help change their behavior, but that can fluctuate depending on the crime.

School leaders will gather all of the feedback from the meeting and post a summary of recommendations on its website soon.

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