CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Rob Cunningham said West Virginia is on track to implement a statewide school safety plan in all 55 counties. here the beginning of 2023.
“I have excellent feedback. Everyone’s on board,” Cunningham told MetroNews at the West Virginia Schools Safety Conference. Last week in downtown Charleston.
Governor Jim Justice launched the West Virginia School Safety Initiative earlier this month. The state plans to use $2 million to place more school resource officers in school buildings.
“One of the big issues we had was at the state level, not having people whose sole responsibility was school safety and we solved that,” Cunningham said.
Currently, some counties have different plans for different schools.
Wayne County Schools Superintendent Todd Alexander said they have three school resource officers and hold safety drills every year, but are constantly looking to improve their safety.
“The more ideas you can bring to the table and the more experts we can bring to the table, the better campus security will be,” Alexander said.
Alexander said the state’s plan is a “positive” step to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Cunningham said each officer will have 6-8 counties and work with school resource officers, local police, sheriff’s departments, EMS, hospitals and other first responders.
West Virginians have already started using a new state-launched app to report suspicious activity in schools. It’s called the See Send app. Cunningham said he received his first tip last week.
“It was for Tucker County that had an incident and it worked out the way we wanted it to,” he said.
Alexander said it was sad to hear about mass shootings in schools across the country. The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Tx. earlier this year, Governor Jim Justice launched the West Virginia initiative. The state also partners with the state Department of Health and Human Resources to identify mental health issues among students and staff.
“One of the things that’s happened is with the pandemic and the opioid epidemic and everything the state has been through, the mental health of the students has really suffered. I think everyone everyone fears something similar will happen here,” Alexander said.
At last week’s conference, several vendors demonstrated new technologies, including improved security cameras, metal detectors and other products. Alexander said it was important to be protected in this regard, but mental health issues had to come first.
“You’re always looking to improve and you’re always on the lookout for the latest technology, but I think the most important thing a district can have in place is good relationships with their students,” he said. .
The state is in the process of recruiting school security officers. The director of the initiative will start in December.