Safety in our schools

Dear parents and guardians,

As a parent of a second-grade student enrolled in Chesterfield County Public Schools, the safety and security of our students and staff members is constantly on my mind. Thanks to those Team Chesterfield members I met during my year as Superintendent, I will leave for work next week comfortable with the understanding that my son will be in great hands on the bus, in the classroom or elsewhere on school grounds.

Tens of thousands of other parents just like me entrust their children to our school division every day and expect that we will keep them 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. 5.

Our schools are safe locations for students and staff members, and we will continue to take every reasonable step to maintain a nurturing learning environment. During the past few years, our school division has taken a number of steps to better secure our buildings and implemented strategies designed to positively affect student behavior. They include:

  • Continuing to work 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;
  • 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 drills by adding earthquake and tornado drills, along with a first-responder team that conducts unannounced intruder drills as part of the approximately 1,500 safety drills held during the 2016-17 school year;
  • Designating school safety teams to promote emergency preparedness and lead critical incident response efforts;
  • Installing additional electronic locking systems at all elementary and middle schools and initiating a multiyear project to upgrade camera surveillance at secondary schools;
  • Incorporating the Promote Respect anti-bullying campaign into our positive behavior intervention and support program; and
  • Adopting the Watch D.O.G.S. program at a majority of elementary schools, bringing positive male role models into schools.

We know that students can’t achieve their best unless they feel comfortable. It is our intention to provide students with a safe haven for the 6.5 hours each day they are with us. This work starts with teachers and staff members who have been asked to create positive, meaningful relationships with every student. These efforts complement ongoing, year-round work to support students and staff members.

Each Chesterfield County school has a critical incident and emergency 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.

Our school division is as equipped as ever to keep your child safe. We continue to work with schools and emergency first-responders to take reasonable steps to provide a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment for students and staff members. Schools are among the safest places for children and young people.

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.

We are partners in our effort to protect our children. In turn, in the future, they will be protecting us.

James F. Lane, Ed.D.