Virginia Beach community gives feedback on school safety

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - What can be done to make schools safer? That was one of the questions the community discussed at a safety and security meeting held by Virginia Beach Public Schools Tuesday night.

The school district's newly formed Blue Ribbon Panel on School Safety and Security wanted to hear from citizens about what they think is working well in schools and how they could improve operations pertaining to safety. Three questions were asked and parents, teachers, students and others in the community were invited to answer and discuss their concerns. All comments are written down and after visits to the schools, the panel will make recommendations to the school board over the summer.

"When I was coming up, school was where you felt safe and talking to my son, he just wasn't feeling safe at school," said Veronica Smith, the mom of a middle schooler. That conversation with her son led her to attend the meeting Tuesday night. Some concerns she brought forward revolved around making sure students are taught safety protocols and they are reinforced often.

"One of the students let the adult in and didn't know who they were. Luckily there was a staff member, but I felt like that was dangerous, not knowing who that was, they could've gotten hurt," said Smith.

That's exactly the kind of feedback the school district is looking for.

"Our interest tonight is hearing from our community about how safe they think our schools are," said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence.

A dad of two - a middle schooler and high schooler -  said he wants to see more resources utilized and he wants students to be taught to hide, run and fight.

"I think some people's perspective on that is overblown. I've heard, We don't want our children to worry about this. But the reality is, they go to sporting events and they go through metal detectors. This is a normal part of life, and we protect our most valuable assets," said Herb Campbell.

The Virginia Beach Police Chief and other officers sat in on the discussion. Chief Jim Cervera has a message for parents.

"Become extremely engaged with your child. I don't care if they're 6 or 16. Become engaged not only talk about social media, but all the narcotics that are available. The intent is for parents to be parents," said Chief Cervera.

Those who couldn't attend the meeting are encouraged to give their comments at an online e-Town Hall.