School Safety and Security
Remember: Report concerning posts or rumors to school administration or the police, please don't share them!
The safety and security of our students and staff is the top priority of Roanoke County Public Schools.
In 2013, Roanoke County Public Schools established a safety and security task force to review our overall safety and security plans and procedures in coordination with the Roanoke County Police, Fire and Rescue departments. The Roanoke County Sheriff's Office, the Vinton Police Department and the Salem Police Department have joined the task force. As a result of that task force, several safety measures have been implemented. While we can’t give specifics on every security measure that we have implemented, here are some of the safety and security actions we have implemented over the past several years.
Training and Crisis Plans:
For many years, our schools have developed and maintained crisis plans to ensure that, should a crisis situation occur, staff are aware of what to do and what processes to follow. These crisis plans are reviewed frequently and updated on a regular basis to include information about new types of situations. Our staff are trained in conducting threat assessments and are trained in the run-hide-fight method when an emergency incident occurs.
Virginia law requires all school divisions to conduct lockdown drills each year. Schools in Roanoke County conduct one drill in early fall and another in the winter of each school year. As required by law, the school division will send advance notice to parents at least 24 hours prior to each drill. As part of the drill, a lockdown announcement will be broadcast throughout the school. Students and staff will practice their lockdown procedures. We encourage parents to talk with their students about the importance of taking these drills safely and following all instructions.
School Resource Officers:
The Roanoke County Police Department has dedicated school resource officers (SROs) to serve in each high school and middle school and the Burton Center for Arts & Technology. The SROs provide a daily police presence in our schools and help to address discipline and safety matters in the school. On July 12, 2022, the Roanoke County School Board approved an updated memorandum of understanding with the Roanoke County Police Department and the Roanoke County Sheriff's Department for eight Sheriff's deputies to serve as SROs focusing on our elementary schools. This increases the total number of SROs to 19. In addition, other police officers, sheriff's deputies and fire/rescue members frequently stop by our schools to check in, greatly increasing the overall police presence at our schools.
Buzz-in entrances/locked doors:
We have installed buzzer and camera systems at every school’s main entrance so that anyone entering the school must first be buzzed in and then directed to the office to check in. Visitors will be asked the nature of their visit. Any visitor wishing to enter a school must use the main entrance – this will be the only entrance that is accessible from the outside. All other exterior entrances will be locked from the outside. In keeping with fire codes, these exterior doors can be opened from the inside and we have installed panic bar-style systems so the doors can be easily opened should there be the need for a rapid evacuation of the building. Interior doors are locked at all times.
Coordination with police:
We have numbered every exterior door at each of our school buildings. These numbered doors will help emergency responders more easily and quickly identify which entrance to use in the event of an incident at one of our school buildings. Further, we have coordinated our technology so that if there is an incident at a school, the police are immediately notified and instantly have on-scene access to our security resources.
Throughout our schools, we have installed visitor sign-in kiosks where visitors to our school will sign-in using either their driver’s license or their name and date of birth. That information is then checked against the national sex offender registry to determine if any registered sex offenders are attempting to enter our schools, or if other individuals are attempting to enter that should not be permitted. Should there be an issue, school administrators can take immediate action.
We have added interior partitions at our main entrances to direct visitor traffic into the office and to add a further barrier between the outside and our school interiors. These partitions will force visitors to first check in and then go through the office to state their intentions and reasons for visiting the school.
Electronic employee badges:
We have moved away from hard keys to school facilities and instead have implemented an electronic key card access system. With this system, access to the school may be restricted to certain times of day, depending on the employee’s regular duties. With these cards, access can be changed instantly, should an employee ID card be lost or stolen.
Expanded use of cameras:
We have been using cameras for many years to help monitor activity in our buildings. We have added additional cameras inside our schools and also added additional cameras to our school buses. Every bus now has three cameras to monitor activity and voices inside and outside the bus. Please remind your children that video and audio are being recorded on the bus each day. We want to reassure parents that these cameras are being used to ensure any disciplinary issues are resolved quickly and to monitor activity in our schools so that if there is someone in our buildings who shouldn’t be, we can quickly detect it and take the appropriate actions.
Mental Health (LIFE) Counselors:
As a direct result of a recommendation from the School Safety Advisory Committee, the Roanoke County School Board has doubled the size of our mental health counseling staff at our secondary schools. LIFE stands for Lead Individuals and Foster Empowerment with our students. LIFE Counselors seek to establish productive relationships with students, parents, staff, and community members. LIFE Counselors provide individual and group counseling to students as well as education on approved mental health, trauma, and substance topics to our students, staff, and parents. Our LIFE counselors also focus on prevention and intervention to promote academic, personal growth, and well-being.
How can parents/guardians and the community help make our school safer:
If your child tells you something that concerns you about the safety of the school, please contact the school administrator or the Roanoke County Police Department at 540-562-3265.
If parents see a concerning post on social media, please report it to school officials or the police department. Please DO NOT share or spread the post. Sharing social media rumors makes it harder for us to discover the source of the rumor or post. You may become part of the investigation, and you may cause unnecessary concerns.
About 90-percent of the time, those who commit violent crimes against schools told someone or posted something on social media prior to committing the act. We encourage you to report anything concerning. Even if it seems trivial, it might be a sign of something larger. If you see or hear something concerning, please say something to a teacher, school administrator, school resource officer or the police department. Remember, report it, don’t share it.
Also, if you have a firearm in your house, we remind you to keep firearms and ammunition under lock and key and completely inaccessible to curious children and thieves. Firearms should be locked and stored separately from ammunition.
We believe every student in every school and in every classroom should have a safe and welcoming environment. Together we can help make sure our schools stay safe and secure as together we prepare our students to be Opportunity Ready.
Safety and Security Terms:
We want parents to understand some of the terms we use when it comes to safety and understand what your role is, and what you need to do, should we have safety incident in our schools.