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Safety in our schools

August 2018

Dear Parents and Guardians,

As we develop the classroom of the future, we want to make sure that this innovative and engaging learning environment does more than advance our teaching-and-learning efforts.  Our schools need to be safe and inclusive in nature, with supports and programs in place that provide students with tactics to work together, strategies to resolve potential conflict and resources to report concerns.

As we start the 2018-19 school year, the School Board and the school division’s senior leadership team reiterate our commitment for creating work and learning environments that are supportive of a diverse community and promote academic and social growth of all students. As we have acknowledged before, our students cannot achieve their best unless they feel secure, comfortable and supported. It is our intention to provide all students with a safe haven for the 6.5 hours each day they are with us. This work continues to start with caring staff members, who have been asked to create and maintain positive, meaningful relationships with every student.

While the nation’s awareness of school security has increased due to events in other school divisions, Chesterfield County schools remain on alert year-round. We understand parents entrust their most precious gifts – their children – to our school division daily. Parents expect that we will keep their children safe. Chesterfield County Public Schools’ ability to meet this expectation is part of why more than 45,000 households will choose to send more than 60,000 students to our schools on Sept. 4.

Chesterfield County Public Schools has taken a number of steps to better secure our buildings and implemented a variety strategies designed to positively affect student behavior.  In February, the School Board initiated a School Safety Task Force to audit the school division’s safety and security efforts, review our mental health support services, research emerging and existing best practices and eventually develop recommendations for ways to create even safer, more proactive schools.

Each Chesterfield County school has a critical incident and emergency response management plan, which includes prevention, mitigation, response and recovery actions. Each school also has a critical incident team that manages school response to issues affecting students and staff members, as well as a threat assessment team that uses a systematic process to evaluate potential disturbances and develop appropriate responses.

We continue to take every reasonable step to maintain a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment. They include:

  • Working collaboratively with local law enforcement officials, the county’s mental health team and other community partners to provide support to students and families in need;
  • Addressing student behavior proactively with the implementation of anti-bullying initiatives and student mental health-support programs such as Social Emotional Learning and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
  • Working with the police department to assign school resource officers to each secondary school and child safety officers to each elementary school, while also assigning school security officers to each high school and career and technical center;
  • Exceeding state mandates for emergency preparation and safety response drills;  
  • Installing additional electronic locking systems at all elementary and middle schools and initiating a multiyear project to upgrade camera surveillance at secondary schools; and
  • Adopting the Watch D.O.G.S. program at a majority of elementary schools, bringing positive male role models into schools.

As a public leader in public education and within the community, we constantly are being watched by others. As we consider the important role that we play in shaping the lives of young people and the responsibilities that we have as role models, Team Chesterfield staff members were reminded this summer of several specific policies that guide our work:

As noted in the Ethics policy, Team Chesterfield staff members are expected to exercise personal judgment consistent with School Board policies and regulations. While nothing in these policies should be interpreted as infringing upon employees’ civil rights, our school division is cognizant that we must continue to maintain learning environments that are free from disruption and distraction.

Team Chesterfield staff members can’t do this work alone. Everyone has a role to play! We ask that everyone be involved, aware and speak up when necessary. Please join our efforts to sustain learning environments that are free from distraction and disruption. If you see something, say something. If you know something, make sure someone at a school knows it, too.

Our school division is as equipped as ever to keep your child safe. We are partners in our efforts to protect our children. Please join us in creating a better tomorrow.

Sincerely,

John M. Erbach
Chair, School Board     

Donald R. Fairheart
Interim Superintendent

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