School Safety and Security
The safety and security of our students and staff is the top priority of Roanoke County Public Schools.
In 2013, Roanoke County Public Schools established a safety and security task force to review our overall safety and security plans and procedures in coordination with the Roanoke County Police, Fire and Rescue departments. Roanoke County Sheriff's Office, the Vinton Police Department and the Salem Police Department have joined the task force. As a result of that task force, several safety measures have been implemented. While we can’t give specifics on every security measure that we have implemented, here are some of the safety and security actions we have implemented over the past several years.
Training and Crisis Plans:
For many years, our schools have developed and maintained crisis plans to ensure that, should a crisis situation occur, staff are aware of what to do and what processes to follow. These crisis plans are reviewed frequently and updated on a regular basis to include information about new types of situations.
School Resource Officers:
The Roanoke County Police Department has dedicated ten school resource officers (SROs) to serve in each high school and middle school and the Burton Center for Arts & Technology. The SROs provide a daily police presence in our schools and help to address discipline and safety matters in the school. On July 12, 2018, the Roanoke County School Board approved an updated memorandum of understanding with the Roanoke County Police Department and the Roanoke County Sheriff's Department for two (2) Sheriff's deputies to serve as full-time SROs focusing on our elementary schools. This increases the total number of SROs to 12.
Roanoke County Police have submitted a request for grant funding from the Dept. of Criminal Justice Services to help pay for additional SROs. If awarded, the grant will provide partial funding for one year for an additional SRO to be assigned to an elementary school. The SROs are employees of the Roanoke County Police Department and applications for this grant are submitted by local police departments. The School Board has agreed, however, to fund the equipment costs for this position as well as provide the local portion of the salary for this position. UPDATE: RCPS was not awarded the grant. We continue to look for additional grant opportunities.
Buzz-in entrances/locked doors:
We have installed buzzer and camera systems at every school’s main entrance so that anyone entering the school must first be buzzed in and then directed to the office to check in. Visitors will be asked the nature of their visit. Any visitor wishing to enter a school must use the main entrance – this will be the only entrance that is accessible from the outside. All other exterior entrances will be locked from the outside. In keeping with fire codes, these exterior doors can be opened from the inside and we have installed panic bar-style systems so the doors can be easily opened should there be the need for a rapid evacuation of the building.
Coordination with police:
We have numbered every exterior door at each of our school buildings. These numbered doors will help emergency responders more easily and quickly identify which entrance to use in the event of an incident at one of our school buildings. Further, we have coordinated our technology so that if there is an incident at a school, the police are immediately notified and instantly have on-scene access to our security resources.
Throughout our schools, we have installed visitor sign-in kiosks where visitors to our school will to sign-in using either their driver’s license or their name and date of birth. That information is then checked against the national sex offender registry to determine if any registered sex offenders are attempting to enter our schools, or if other individuals are attempting to enter that should not be permitted. Should there be an issue, school administrators can take immediate action.
We have added interior partitions at our main entrances to direct visitor traffic into the office and to add a further barrier between the outside and our school interiors. These partitions will force visitors to first check in and then go through the office to state their intentions and reasons for visiting the school.
Electronic employee badges:
We have moved away from hard keys to school facilities and instead have implemented an electronic key card access system. With this system, access the school may be restricted to certain times of day, depending on the employee’s regular duties. With these cards, access can be changed instantly, should an employee ID card be lost or stolen.
Expanded use of cameras:
We have been using cameras for many years to help monitor activity in our buildings. We have added additional cameras inside our schools and also added additional cameras to our school buses. Every bus now has three cameras to monitor activity and voice inside and outside the bus. Please remind your children that video and audio are being recorded on the bus each day. We want to reassure parents that these cameras are being used to ensure any disciplinary issues are resolved quickly and to monitor activity in our schools so that if there is someone in our buildings who shouldn’t be, we can quickly detect it and take the appropriate actions.
Mental Health (LIFE) Counselors:
As a direct result of a recommendation from the School Safety Advisory Committee, the Roanoke County School Board has doubled the size of our mental health counseling staff at our secondary schools. LIFE stands for Lead Individuals and Foster Empowerment with our students. LIFE Counselors seek to establish productive relationships with students, parents, staff, and community members. LIFE Counselors provide individual and group counseling to students as well as education on approved mental health, trauma, and substance topics to our students, staff, and parents. Our LIFE counselors also focus on prevention and intervention to promote academic, personal growth, and well-being.