Virginia Beach leaders make safety recommendations at schools

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A panel formed to address school safety has made 11 recommendations.

The recommendations target three areas, including response and training, personnel and equipment and mental health.

The panel formed in April, following the school shooting in Florida. It included school leaders, police officers, military members and other community members.

Here's a listing of the recommendations:

Safety Protocols, Emergency Preparedness, and Response

  • 1) Refine and expand training exercise with regards to emergency procedures
  • 2) Implement a robust system of preventative security (conducting more frequent checks of access points and regular lighting and camera surveys)
  • 3) Conduct more frequent and unannounced safety audits
  • 4) Strengthen procedures for controlling access into and within the school facility

Safety Infrastructure and Personnel

  • 5) Reevaluate the security personnel program (reevaluating the job description, hiring process, evaluation of security personnel and identifying appropriate training)
  • 6) Strengthen infrastructure for controlling access to school sites (buildings and grounds; including security desk location and associated equipment)
  • 7) Evaluate and increase the use and location of cameras and sensors
  • 8) Strengthen infrastructure for securing classrooms

Behavior and Mental Health

  • 9) Increase behavior and mental health staff available to students to aid in early identification and support of students exhibiting mental health needs
  • 10) Increase mental health awareness through training for all staff and stakeholders
  • 11) Increase community engagement and collaboration with partner agencies

"I think any educator loses sleep over safety and security," said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. He says the panel found that people feel safe at the schools, but there are ways to improve.  School leaders previously announced plans to lock all front doors.

"It's like anything else. It evolves," said Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera of security plans at schools. "Any parent wants to make sure that when their child gets on that school bus, they're getting off the bus and getting back home," he added. "We have to view this through the parents' eyes."

Dr. Spence says there are some things that they can implement now, like drills and training. Adding staff and other long term goals will take further discussion with other city and state leaders.