Culpeper County Public Schools are safe, but more can be done to ensure that trend continues – was the message a group of law enforcement, government and school officials delivered during a roundtable on school safety Monday at Brandy Station Fire Hall.
A product of the outcry following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, the roundtable discussed how far Culpeper has come since Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins took office in 2012 and how more resources are still needed to continue to ensure the safety of students in Culpeper County schools.
Jenkins said that more school resource officers are needed to continue to protect CCPS schools, but that each high school and each middle school has one resource officer assigned to it and four of the elementary schools are staffed with school resource officers.
He pointed out, however, that those deputies are routinely called out to attend court, training or other duties and more school resource officers should be funded to help fill the gaps.
“We’d need three more to properly staff the 10 schools,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins gave a presentation detailing the advancements in security measures taken since he took office in 2012, including adding vestibules to the schools, color coding of the regions of the school so both students and law enforcement have proper knowledge of the law out of the school, the use of cameras inside and outside the school, the placement of “Knox boxes” at the schools and the amount of school resource officers now available.
He also addressed concerns about the implementation of security measures such as metal detectors or clear backpacks, pointing out the logistics issues with both – especially the metal detectors which would take more than two hours to properly screen each student coming through the high school’s doors.
He praised the relationship between the CCSO and the schools and how they address safety.
“We are far above others,” Jenkins said. “We do have that good guy with a gun on each campus. It’s a team effort from everyone. It’s important to stop and realize (when hysteria happens because of school shootings) many of those jurisdictions are operating with security the way we had it in 2011, which was very limited.”
Culpeper County Superintendent Tony Brads just happened to be meeting with his student members of his advisory board the day the Parkland shooting occurred. Following the Parkland incident, he said the next time he met with the advisory board he asked the students if they felt safe.
“Every single one said ‘Yes, I feel safe,’” Brads said, explaining that the students appreciated the emergency drills and color-coding mapping of the schools. “They’re noticing these things.”
Brads echoed Jenkins’ comments on the safety and later in the roundtable had a conversation with local resident Paul Bates about the use of 3M bulletproof film that could be put doors that access schools. Brads said that a cost analysis was being completed on the possibility of adding that extra security measure.
Daria Brezinski, author of “Preventing School Shootings: The Formula,” broke down the many traits school shooters have in common. She said stress is a major contributing factor to the violence and talked about how HIPAA laws prevent mental health professionals from dealing with issues because they cannot share information with school and law enforcement representatives.
Daria Brezinski, author of “Preventing School Shootings: The Formula,” said school shooters share many traits in common. Stress, she said, is a major contributing factor in violence.
“By the time a law is broken, it’s too late,” Brzezinski said. “What do you do with that person who hasn’t committed a crime?”
Late in the conversation, Town Councilman Bobby Ryan questioned if teachers should have access to guns.
Brads said that while he’s in favor of armed school resource officers and trained school security guards that he “frankly would not be in favor of arming teachers.”
Ryan responded that “I’m an Army vet and have been out for 50 years, I wouldn’t want an old codger like me in in a school with a gun.”
Delegates Michael Webert and Nick Freitas talked about the grants available and the role of the general assembly in addressing the issue, though Freitas pointed out that impacting a student who is contemplating these thoughts with love and positive reinforcement is the right course of action.
“There is a role for local, state and federal government for ensuring student safety,” Freitas said. “But the other thing I want to emphasize is this can’t be a top down solution that is pushed from Washington, D.C. or Richmond. I think the most significant component of this is coming down to the individual and the parents. There really has to be a community based solution to this, it’s not just the security standpoint. It’s ensuring something like this by identifying things early on and preventing it from taking place, as opposed to being reactive to it.”