To keep everyone safe, should metal detectors, more SROs be put in schools? Officials explain safety plans

This comes after a shot was fired in the bathroom of a Roanoke middle school

In the wake of Tuesday’s bathroom shooting at a Roanoke middle school, parents were left with many questions.

ROANOKE, Va. – In the wake of Tuesday’s bathroom shooting at a Roanoke middle school, parents were left with many questions.

We know a student was arrested and charged with two felonies in connection to the shooting at Lucy Addison Middle School and most importantly no one was hurt, but parents asked about metal detectors and the possibility of more school resource officers.

The biggest question everyone has is what led up to the shooting?

“At this time we don’t know the circumstances regarding that shot fired,” answered Roanoke City Police Chief Sam Roman on Tuesday.

A press release sent later did not detail the circumstances.

WSLS 10 News called several school systems across Southwest Virginia to ask about safety plans. Every plan can be found on the respective system’s website.

School Resource Officers (SROs) have a daily presence at nearly all Southwest Virginia schools. There are staffing challenges in some areas, so officers spend their days at multiple schools.

On Tuesday, Roanoke City police officers were inside Lucy Addison Middle during the shooting, 10 News confirmed.

“We can’t be everywhere at the same time,” said Roanoke City Sheriff Antonio Hash. “Help us help your kids. Check your kids’ bookbags. You have the right to search that person to make sure they don’t have anything on them.”

Hash has nine deputies who share SRO responsibilities at Roanoke City’s 17 elementary schools. The Roanoke City Police Department is responsible for the city’s middle and high schools. These two agencies lean on each other during shortages.

A question that kept surfacing among the sea of worried parents Tuesday was about metal detectors. Most school systems in Southwest Virginia have them, but rarely use them for various reasons.

In early March, during a presentation to Roanoke City Council, the city school Superintendent Verletta White was questioned about them.

“When students, community members, or anyone really is determined to bring a gun into school, they’re not necessarily going to come through the front door. So, unless we have every entrance covered and not only that those metal detectors have to be manned,” White answered.

White wants to focus on preventative work.

“If we spent more time there, I believe we would need fewer of those kinds of constraints on a school overall, which I do believe could be a strain on administration and our teachers and could have some other domino effect we’re not anticipating,” said White.

The school division plans to host a Virtual School Safety Summit to discuss the current challenges and research-based best practices to ensure school safety.

During this summit, the use of metal detectors in schools will be discussed.

While logistics are still being finalized, the school division is inviting students, parents, and teachers, as well as community, faith-based, and school leaders to take part.

On March 18, Roanoke City Schools announced that training is underway for incidents like this one.

In Roanoke City Public Schools, we learn by doing. This morning, we held a district-wide emergency management tabletop...

Posted by Roanoke City Public Schools on Friday, March 18, 2022

In a statement to WSLS 10 News Wednesday, RCPS said the following:

Roanoke City Public Schools’ top priority is always the safety of our students and staff. We want to reiterate how proud we are of our students and staff at Lucy Addison Middle School for remaining calm yesterday. We also want to thank our parents and guardians for their patience and understanding as we worked to reunite them with their students.

As Superintendent White says, “School is more than school.” This means we must provide our students the resources and support they need. RCPS is committed to continuing to work with our city’s leadership as well as civic and community partners to ensure our city and schools are an environment where our youth can thrive. We must all continue our work to empower our city’s youngest citizens to dream, excel, and meet their full potential. This will benefit our city and all citizens.

We are committed to doing everything we can to support our students and meet their needs. Recent initiatives include:

RCPS also has longstanding support for our students, including:

Small and large, these initiatives and programs provide students with a sense of belonging and what they need to succeed, academically and emotionally.

We continue to ask the community to come together in support of Roanoke’s youth. What happens in our community impacts our students, our schools, and the future of our city. If you are interested in helping, please:

Roanoke City Public Schools

The Roanoke City School Board provided 10 News with this statement:

We, like our parents and the community, are concerned and frustrated by the recent acts of gun violence in our city that are now impacting our schools. Our schools are a microcosm of what is happening in our city and in the nation; therefore, we need the Roanoke community to come together on solutions.

Roanoke City Public Schools is committed to providing a safe, high-quality educational learning environment for all students and staff members. We are committed to continuing to implement prevention and restoration strategies outlined in our strategic plan. These strategies include, but are not limited to:

• Working collaboratively with the Roanoke City Police Department and Sheriff’s Office to secure our facilities.

• Hiring more staff (teachers, counselors, and social workers.)

• Organizing student and community events to keep students connected to school.

Roanoke City Public Schools will also host a Virtual School Safety Summit to discuss the current challenges and research-based best practices to ensure school safety. The use of metal detectors in schools is a complex decision, and the Summit will include this important discussion.

We invite students, parents, and teachers, as well as community, faith-based, and school leaders to join us for this important discussion. Details about the Summit will be released as logistics are finalized.

Roanoke City Public Schools School Board

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.