ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Diane Bell has four kids in the Roanoke County school system. She spent her Tuesday evening fighting for them, asking for better safety measures at county schools.
"In light of Parkland, we just felt like this can't wait. This has to be something that is the absolute major number one priority right now," Bell said.
Diane is part of the Roanoke County Public Schools Active Shooter Prevention Alliance. On Tuesday evening, she and about a dozen other concerned parents and citizens of all ages gathered ahead of a board of supervisors meeting. The group's goal was to persuade the board to find the funding for more school security options whether that be metal detectors or more officers.
"The number one area that we're looking for is entrance security. We don't want to feel that weapons can make it into our schools period but certainly not easily," Bell said.
After demonstrating outside, the group ventured into the board of supervisors meeting where Diane voiced her concerns. In the sea of red sitting behind Diane, another Roanoke County parent, Corey Meador, was listening intently. She has one child in kindergarten and another almost there. While she appreciates the county's plan for a safety committee and discussion surrounding school safety, she wants more and she believes now is the time.
"We can't afford to wait anymore. Because one day too late may be one day too late," Meador said.
The board did thank the group for attending the meeting. The board also sent 10 News a statement saying:
"In our community, there has been much talk about how we should work together to protect our children. There has also been much talk about those actions that should be taken to further secure our schools. As members of the Board of Supervisors we hear this discourse and we applaud the passion of those who not just ask, but demand a safe environment for our kids.
The trained and skilled members of the County Police, Fire, and Emergency Communication Departments, who bear responsibility for the protection of all in our community, are, and shall remain, at the forefront of all efforts to safeguard our children.
Roanoke County’s Public Safety staff work closely with school administrators to ensure security plans and procedures are routinely practiced, and meet regularly to review them. Public Safety staff work with teachers, students, parents, and other members of our community to teach valuable lessons in school safety, respond quickly and effectively to reported concerns, engage with the community to identify collaborative solutions to complex challenges, and provide many other services during the course of their duties.
As we know from Public Safety experts here and elsewhere, we cannot mitigate every risk we face by simply implementing a few new security procedures. Our objective should not simply be to stop someone in the act of doing harm; rather, we must improve our ability to see the warning signs while simultaneously putting in place effective deterrent strategies. To do so will require not only our Public Safety experts, but our mental health professionals, our social workers, and every citizen of our community.
The Board of Supervisors supports the work of the School Board in partnership with our Public Safety experts to continue discussion of this issue, and consider thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations. The Roanoke County School Board has appointed a School Safety Committee to define what measures could be taken to further secure our schools. At this point, it is premature to determine what actions the Board of Supervisors might take. We will continue to work with the School Board to consider the recommendations that they put forward. Together, we will address school and student safety in the same manner as we address all of our most pressing challenges: with openness, diligence, and effective collaboration."