Randy Yohe Published

School Safety Focus Of W.Va. House Of Delegates General Session


School safety was the topic of a West Virginia House of Delegates General Session on Tuesday.

Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Rob Cunningham was one of three state school leaders invited to speak to delegates. He is tasked with developing a new best-practice school safety plan for the state.

He said he’s already beginning the process for his number one idea which is developing a universal app that would allow students or anyone else to report potentially dangerous talk or activity.

“It would automatically go to our local law enforcement,” Cunningham said. “It would automatically go to the fusion (central command) center so we can immediately act. The systems we have now are good but I think they’re mostly antiquated.”

He said the app would not be limited to school systems.

“I want everyone to be able to have it,” Cunningham said. “So if you drive past the school, when you see the back gate open, you can get on your app and say the back gate’s open. That will hold the administrators responsible for making sure that their school was locked down when it needs to be locked down.”

One delegate asked if an app like that could be abused, and what would be the consequences of false reports. Cunningham said it would be along the same lines as people calling in a false police call.

Cunningham also said, due to limited funding, only a quarter of West Virginia’s 674 schools have designated school resource officers.

School Building Authority Executive Director David Roach told delegates only about half of the state’s schools have a main door mechanism to prevent an intruder from entering the building. He said it would take $164 million to outfit all schools with the trapping device.

Roach said outside school doors and windows are labeled and numbered to let first responders know where everything is and where to go in.

Jonah Adkins, the accountability officer with the Department of Education told delegates each school district has a crisis response team and access to an online tool kit on how to address concerns, for example, with a student’s tendency toward violence.

Adkins also said West Virginia schools are involved in the “one caring adult initiative,” pairing one caring adult in the school with one student.