Washington County, Virginia taking numerous school safety measures

Washington County Schools are working with the sheriff's office on several new school safety implementations.

A safety application previously only used by law enforcement, is now available to all Washington County, Virginia Schools faculty and staff. With just the touch of a button, the Hero 911/School Guard mobile application allows faculty and staff to notify law enforcement in the case of an active shooter situation. The geo-fencing application is set up to notify all law enforcement officers who also have the application within a 25-mile radius of the school. The goal of the application is to allow for faster response times and more efficient overall response.

"It's in all 16 of our schools plus our school board office. The cost is approximately $23,000, and to my knowledge, we're the only sheriff's office in Southwest Virginia that is utilizing this software application," says Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman.

The alert not only notifies law enforcement in the area, but it also alerts the nearest 911 dispatch center of the situation. The application displays a map of the general location, as well as a pinpoint of where the alert came from within the school building.

Washington County is also implementing a school safety task force. County schools superintendent Dr. Brian Ratliff presented the idea to Sheriff Newman, and the organization of the group is underway. The task force will meet regularly, hold table talk simulations, and evaluate available resources all in an effort to provide the safest and most secure school environment for faculty, staff, and students. The group will be made up of a variety of individuals all working toward the same goal.

"We're hoping to include not only law enforcement, school officials, but also mental health professionals, and private citizens to come together and hopefully be proactive in school safety," says Sheriff Newman.

Safety needs, concerns, and proactive ideas will be discussed moving forward. The task force will also be open to parents and county public safety officials.

Washington County is discussing the addition of school resource officers in the school system. Sheriff Newman says every safety measure counts, and his goal is to have a school resource officer stationed at all 16 Washington County schools in the system. He also says it's going to be a joint effort between the sheriff's office and the school system's leaders.

"We're approaching our school system, our school board, and our board of supervisors for additional personnel. Our goal would be to put one school resource officer in each school. We feel like that is a must from the stand point of safety,” Sheriff Newman says.

Washington County school board chairman, Billy Brooks says it's on the table for discussion, and the board is waiting for a recommendation from the superintendent on funding to support the addition of school resource officers.

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