W.Va. preparing to roll out statewide school safety initiative

West Virginia preparing to roll out statewide school safety initiative
West Virginia preparing to roll out statewide school safety initiative
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 6:32 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - After tragedies across the country, the West Virginia State Board of Education is taking a closer look at school safety.

“It’s not if, it’s when based on the numbers and the data,” said Paul Hardesty, WVBE board president. “We owe it to our children to be as prepared as possible.”

The Uvalde, Texas, shooting prompted Gov. Jim Justice to make school safety a top priority, tasking Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Homeland Security, Rob Cunningham to develop a new statewide school safety initiative.

“We’re going to address these failures that have resulted in the loss of life in other places,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham says he has been developing the plan, which is in final review. He says it focus on three categories. What to do before, during and after a school crisis.

“What I have found is we all have the same goal, but we don’t have all of our tools in the same bucket,” Cunningham said.

He says he’s realized schools across the state do not have unified plans for active school shooter situations.

“Initially, when I first started this I was thinking we’ll have 55 different plans. That’s not the case,” Cunningham said. “We’ve got counties that have a different mass shooting plan for each school, and as a first responder that’s a nightmare. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

The lack of unified plans caught the attention of Hardesty who says they need to get all 55 counties on the same page.

“You saw what happened in Uvalde. People not being ready to do their job. The response was not a proper response it was not adequate and who suffered children,” Hardesty said.

Cunningham says more than 90% of school shooters have an observable psychological, behavioral or neurological symptom.

“We have to understand who our school shooters are. What makes up these people?” Cunningham said.

Part of the statewide school safety initiative will center on helping schools spot warning signs.

“We’re going to get people in the state of West Virginia where there job is school safety. We’re going to make sure that a priority,” Cunningham said.

Hardesty says this will now be a regular item on the board’s agenda to give members monthly updates and help give families a little more peace of mind.

“This issue is important to this board. We’re not going to discount it. We’re not going to take it lightly. It’s something we’re going to keep on the forefront and on the front burner,” Hardesty said. “We do not want to bring Mr. Cunningham here just to do a presentation and check the box, so to speak, and then forget about the issue.”

There is no timeframe yet on when the statewide school safety initiative will be announced and implemented.