CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Last week, Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security (WV DHS) announced the West Virginia School Safety Initiative. The WV School Safety Initiative was developed to assist in the creation and implementation of uniform crisis prevention and response protocols throughout schools in the Mountain State.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our kids are learning in the safest environment possible, and being safe starts with being prepared,” said Gov. Justice. “That’s why I tasked the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security to create a comprehensive school safety initiative to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to keep our students, schools, and communities safe.”
The WV School Safety Initiative provides research-based guidance for school personnel, students, parents, and community members. The goal of this Initiative is to share the knowledge necessary to recognize threatening or concerning behavior in students, the information required to detect and potentially prevent acts of school violence or to mitigate the harm resulting from an act of school violence, and the tools necessary to seek assistance in the event of a crisis or threat. The School Safety Initiative is organized into three broad categories: Detection and Prevention, Response During a Crisis, and Post-Crisis Response.
“In my 43-year career, this is the most impactful, collaborative and strategic effort I have been a part of to protect our most valuable resource in West Virginia – our children,” said Jeff Sandy, Secretary of WV DHS. “While developing this Initiative, we have worked closely with the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the School Building Authority, and federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. So far, there is $2 million invested into this Initiative so that all these great ideas can be put into practice.”
The primary focus of this Initiative is the detection and prevention of school violence. In the context of school violence, detection and intervention leads to prevention. Accordingly, each school will be encouraged to create a Threat Assessment Team using the Model Threat Assessment Process outlined in the School Safety Initiative. The Model Threat Assessment Process contains three steps: identity, assess and act, and administrate. Each step is discussed in detail so that school officials have all the information they need to create and implement an effective threat assessment process.
Further, the establishment of the School Safety and Security Division within the Division of Protective Services will operate to increase accountability in the context of school safety and will make detecting, reporting, and investigating school threats more effective. The School Safety and Security Division will consist of a director and a safety team. The safety team will be made up of several School Safety Officers who will be located in each region of the state. This system will provide West Virginia schools with a centralized command, specifically tasked with the organization, implementation, and management of school safety policies, procedures, and protocols. School Safety officers will also help to bridge the gap in communication between the schools and the communities.
“One crucial element of this Initiative is the focus on the community,” said Robert Cunningham, Deputy Cabinet Secretary of WV DHS. “West Virginia has partnered with My Mobile Witness to implement a “see something, send something” reporting system that can be done with a click of a button on your smartphone or other mobile devices. To keep our children safe, we ask every West Virginian to participate in this Initiative by downloading the free See, Send application from the App Store or Google Play.”
My Mobile Witness is also compatible with web-based reporting and is not strictly for cell phone use. Once the app is downloaded to your device, users will be prompted to enter their first and last name (though any reporting can be done anonymously, if the user prefers), their phone number, and then select a state of residence. Once those fields are entered, the app will be ready to use. The user may submit tips for “Crime/Suspicious Activity” or “School Threat or Safety Issues,” and they may also request help for “Suicide or Addiction.”
If there is an immediate danger, or if law enforcement intervention is immediately necessary, please call 911.