School Safety Update

Posted: January 17, 2023

NNPS Colleagues,

In light of the unfortunate event on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School, I believe it is important that we continue to keep everyone apprised of the actions being taken to support our Richneck Elementary staff and provide you with information on our efforts to address concerns with overall school safety and student behavior both currently and moving forward.

When incidents such as this occur, I truly understand that our entire school community is impacted in some way. Therefore, while my immediate focus will remain with Ms. Zwerner, the staff and the families of Richneck Elementary students, I want all staff to be well informed not only on our efforts to keep you safe, but also how you can assist with safety efforts at your schools.

Undoubtedly, any information that we obtain from the incident that occurred at Richneck Elementary will be used to strengthen our safety planning and capabilities. That is a priority as well as a commitment from our School Board and division leadership.

In our last Staff Newsbreak, I mentioned we have listened to the voices of teachers and staff regarding the challenges of student behavior. We listened and we continue to work to improve current systems and processes to help better manage extreme behaviors that adversely affect the culture and climate in schools. It is my hope we will continue to work together to make significant progress so that all students and staff feel safe and supported while in school.

How has the input of staff and community impacted decisions regarding school safety?

Planning for the 2022-2023 school year began during the second semester of last school year. You may recall that a Planning Survey was administered to teachers and other staff who support the instructional programs of each school. The survey was administered in May 2022 and garnered over 1,100 responses. One of the five categories of the survey related to School Safety and Student Expectations. Regarding survey findings, 60% of respondents indicated that building administrators address negative student behaviors; while 69% believed that school administrators work to maintain a safe learning environment.

The open-ended responses to the survey were grouped into three areas of concern: student discipline; expectations for behavior; and increasing our security presence in schools. To review the report on the 2022-2023 Planning Survey, click here.

In addition to a planning survey, staff and community were provided an opportunity to provide input during the planning phases of developing the NNPS Facility Master Plan (FMP). Input was solicited by survey and a total of 1,365 responses from staff and community members was received. Input from the FMP indicated that improving school safety was a high priority in terms of school construction and improvement.

This school year, we have relied on our division-wide Teacher, Staff and Student advisory committees to inform the agenda and offer possible solutions to issues that impact teachers and other staff. The Teacher Advisory Committee, which consists of teachers from every NNPS school, utilizes procedures which are expected to be utilized by all school Principal Advisory Committees. Additionally, staff concerns which are received through direct communication to my office, such as [email protected], are addressed directly with the building leader when appropriate to do so.

Based on the input received from surveys or direct communications, the following changes have been made to address school safety related concerns:

  • Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training was scheduled at the beginning of the school year for all NNPS schools.
  • Technology improvements such as Gaggle (text) messaging, which allows for increased monitoring of student Chromebooks by sending a message directly to building leaders was implemented. Additionally, the Raptor Emergency Management system, which enables direct messaging to staff and families in the event of an emergency, is being piloted at Denbigh High School and will begin being implemented in other NNPS schools throughout the second semester of this school year.
  • SRO coverage was increased to include a designated SRO in all middle and high schools. Coverage at the elementary level remains by request for the current school year.
  • The allocation for high school security officers was increased to six (6) security officers. Additionally, we have added seven (7) security officers to expand coverage in elementary schools and 19 security officers are currently assigned to middle schools.
  • Video training has been created to demonstrate the steps of classroom, bus and quick scan searches.
  • Increased random searches (a minimum of 3 random buses and a minimum of 5 random classrooms per week) in middle and high schools. In order to support this requirement, NNPS added additional walkthrough metal detectors and wands which are currently used throughout middle and high schools. Additional searches may be conducted based on threat assessment or other factors.
  • All security officers received refresher training in Safe Schools on how to handle high-risk, high-stress and crisis situations (Active Shooter, Crisis Response, Emergency Operations-Planning, Emergency Operations- Implementing the Plan, Family Reunification, Managing the Aftermath of Tragedy, and Threat Assessment).
  • Campus Safety Teams were created at each secondary school.

In responding to safety suggestions to improve entry point accesses, all NNPS schools were assessed for the following:

  1. Line of sight front entrance capability to include office location
  2. Double vestibule access
  3. Access door technology for all exterior doors

In Fall 2022, initial funding was secured for two schools, Richneck Elementary and Newsome Park Elementary, to receive minor renovations to include relocation of the main office with added double vestibules. The Board approved a Capital Improvement Plan budget that includes funding for other schools in need of similar safety improvements. Additionally, NNPS began replacing older keypad door technology in schools over the past two years with swipe card access technology. This technology enables schools to automatically restrict access from a central location. Completion of all elementary school replacements will be completed this school year.

What resources have been added or are being considered to address student behavior?

As indicated in a prior communication, there is still much work to do in regards to improving the behavior of some of our students. According to survey responses by the National Center for Education Statistics, 87 percent of public schools reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted student socio-emotional development. Additionally, 84 percent of public schools either agreed or strongly agreed that students' behavioral development since the pandemic has been negatively impacted.

We began to see the impact of isolation on our students' mental well-being as early as 2020, once we closed our doors for the remainder of the school year. Additionally, once we returned to in-person classes, teacher input was a primary motivator as we continued to add additional resources and procedures. That said, there is still work to do here; therefore, the below items only reflect resources that have been considered based on the needs of our students and staff:

  • While we have maintained a partnership with the Community Services Board (CSB), we have also continued to add additional licensed mental health professionals to our division team. To be assessed for clinical services through the NNPS clinical program or CSB, the building principal or a designee may simply submit a referral form for the student to Linda Askew, Supervisor of Student Support, for assistance.
  • During the 2021-22 school year, NNPS was notified by the CSB that Therapeutic Day Treatment (TDT) services would be discontinued. TDT is an important Tier II support for addressing inappropriate behaviors for students. While we have contracted a vendor to provide TDT services, there have been recent changes to Medicaid screening which has significantly limited the number of students who are eligible for services. As a result, we hired six (6) behavior coaches. Due to a greater need for elementary schools, I have approved the staffing for an additional six (6) instructional behavior coaches. Behavior coaches assist teachers in the classroom to address unwanted student behaviors and develop classroom plans to improve student behavior.
  • In order to address incidents of physical aggression in a consistent manner throughout our division, we implemented new procedures this year to include a required Student Behavior Contract on the first incident of an act of physical aggression. The Behavior Improvement Contract is a tool used at the school level after a student has been suspended for a serious violation of the Code of Conduct. To be readmitted to school following suspension, the student and a parent/guardian are required to meet with the building administrator to review and sign the contract. The Behavior Improvement Contract will define the behaviors expected of the student during the next calendar year and the consequences for failure to meet those expectations. Students who violate the terms of their contract shall be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Discipline for review. That office may determine that students should be assigned to another school or alternative program. The Office of Student Conduct and Discipline may also create a Behavior Monitoring Plan for the student, which will be monitored by an Instructional Behavior Coach.

Discipline Analysis from November 2022 School Board Presentation

At the request of the School Board, a report on student conduct is provided to the board and community every November. A summary of findings is provided below; however, you may view the November School Board presentation.

  • A comparison of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 School years (January through March) indicated that the number of disciplinary incidents and student infractions across the school division declined by 40%.
  • The number of students involved in disciplinary incidents declined by 27%. These reductions in overall discipline led to a decrease in student infractions of 19%.
  • A review of our efforts to ensure that all students are treated fairly and consistently, data for the 2021-2022 school year determined a 3.6% reduction in the referral rate for Black or African American students and a 1.3% reduction for students with a disability (SWD).

Results from the November 2022 Student Discipline Report are representative of the implementation of division initiatives such as the Student Support Team (SST) process, Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS). Additionally, training for school administrators on discipline data entry and revisions to the Student Code of Conduct were completed over the period of this data collection.

What additional actions are being considered to improve division safety and student behavior?

I believe that responding to any questions regarding future actions should also be considerate of the impact of your daily experience in your classroom and school. While building improvements, added supports and procedural changes are necessary, improving our efforts to respond to individual school and staff members' concerns is extremely important.

  • Expanded Daily Use of Metal Detection - We have secured the necessary support from our City Council to purchase the metal detection technology that will enable every visitor to be screened as they enter every school in our division. As of today, we have ordered 90 individual door units which will be distributed to each school upon arrival. Upon completion of any training needed to adequately operate the devices, the detection units will be scheduled for daily use.
  • In order to adequately solicit safety information specific to individual schools, in the coming weeks, a division-wide school safety stand down will be scheduled to allow for teachers and school administrators to collaborate and discuss building safety. Information collected will be reviewed, and data will be used to audit school procedures to determine any added supports needed for your school, students, and community.
  • Upon completion of the safety stand down, scheduled meetings will be conducted with staff at every school in the division for the sole purpose of listening and responding to staff concerns. Emphasis for these discussions will focus on reasonable solutions and supports.
  • Additional opportunities for behavior training will be provided for staff to ensure that your resources toolbox for addressing unwanted classroom behavior is equipped with research-based best practices from experts and veteran educators.

It is my hope that this information is helpful as we chart our course for moving forward. In the coming days, we will continue to provide the necessary support and guidance for our Richneck staff, students, and community. Additionally, we will ensure that your safety and the safety of our students remains a priority.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you regarding this communication or any urgent concerns. The link below is provided for your input or feedback. If you need additional assistance or support, please consider utilizing the division helpline at (757) 788-0635 or contact me directly at [email protected].

Click here to provide feedback.

Yours in Service,

George Parker, III, Ph.D.

One School... One Division... One Community