Roanoke Valley schools rethink school security

Research shows 81% of the time, a K-12 school attacker is going to tell someone their intention before it happens

Research shows 81% of the time, a K-12 school attacker is going to tell someone their intention before it happens

ROANOKE, Va.This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at SolutionariesNetwork.com.


This week, Roanoke City heads back to school and like many other districts, they’re working to beef up security measures.

As we’ve reported, 25 safety recommendations were adopted by the school board, including new classroom door locks, and an additional 15 school resource officers on top of the 11 already on staff.

We’re working for you to explain how they hope one additional measure will save lives.

“Anytime a tragedy happens like Uvalde, Texas everybody wants to do something, and gadgets are not going to help us,” said Chris Perkins, Roanoke City Public Schools Chief Operations Officer.

This school year, student safety is top of mind more than ever. That’s why school systems like Roanoke City are having to rethink the way they do things.

“We’ve got to create ways to build relationships and trust. But most importantly, we’ve got to create ways that if I do see something, I need an avenue to say something so I don’t take ridicule or bullying because I may have told on another person,” said Perkins.

The school system is expanding the bullying hotline. This year students, parents or anyone in the community can call to report anything – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.

“The research tells us, Secret Service and Department of Education conducted this research, tells us that the K-12 School attacker in approximately 81% of the time is going to tell someone their intention, and approximately 59% of the time that school attacker will tell more than one person,” said Perkins.

Perkins went on to say this doesn’t replace other school safety features but just adds to what they’re doing. If it’s an immediate issue, 911 will be contacted.

“But if it’s something that, you know, ‘I saw something that’s odd, that individual, they’re generally very happy but there’s something wrong’, we can take that information and work with because a lot of the times there’s commonalities with school attackers, there is no specific profile,” said Perkins.

A tip line is something Roanoke County already had in place. Assistant Superintendent of Administration Dr. Rhonda Stegall says they’ve prevented suicides and potentially worse.

“There have been several things that we think that could have potentially taken a path of violence, but maybe we derailed that before it got there,” said Stegall.

They’ve been telling students for years, that if you see something or hear something – say something. It’s been so successful, other school systems across the country have used the same poster Roanoke County is using. The school system told 10 News they purposely left the poster generic, so anyone could use it.

Other school systems across the country have used this same poster that Roanoke County Public Schools started using years ago. (Courtesy: Roanoke County Public Schools)

With the increase in social media use, Roanoke County is putting emphasis on not sharing threatening posts.

“What happens there, when we start our investigation, it gets a little bit fuzzy because we’re not sure who originated the post. So the people who repost actually become part of our investigation because we have to go through all those reposts to get to the person who actually originally posted,” said Stegall.

Instead of sharing on social media, report it.

“When we do threat assessments, we will ask our students you know, ‘Did you hear anything about,’ ‘oh, yeah, I saw it. I heard it. I didn’t think they were serious. He does that stuff all the time.’ So it’s getting past that hesitancy to report,” said Stegall. “The concern here is you could be saving the lives of many people.”

Both school districts stress this isn’t about getting people in trouble, this is about getting students the support they need if there’s something going on and they need help.

To report something anonymously in Roanoke County use SPEAK UP – call or text at 540-595-0706 or email speakup@student.rcps.us

The Roanoke City Schools bullying hotline number is (540) 853-1700. When the new tipline number is implemented, the school system says they will be sure to communicate it with families in a variety of ways.


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About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.