SCPS adds new security measures

Published 11:47 pm Monday, January 17, 2022

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Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn P. Shannon briefed the school board Monday, Jan. 10, on security measures being put in place due to the threats the school system has received thus far during the 2021-22 school year.

“It’s really unfortunate that we are having to take some of the security measures that we’re having to take today, but honestly, just today, one of our neighboring schools received a threat, and you all are well aware of the number of threats that we have received this year,” Shannon said. 

“So one of the things that we are doing at Southampton Middle School and Southampton High School is we will be utilizing metal detectors to enhance our security measures. And I think tonight when you all entered, everyone should have probably come through a metal detector.

“Some of the other things that we are doing is we have door access controls for admission to each of our school buildings, our employees have identification access badges, we have cameras in the hallways, parking lots, select classrooms and program centers, as well as the exterior of our buildings,” she continued. “We utilize Navigate Prepared, which is our student emergency management system, and it’s utilized by teachers and administration to handle incidents and to conduct drills.”

She noted that the school system has school resource officers, one of which was present at the school board meeting, as well as a school security officer, all of whom provide counseling and visibility in the schools.

“These officers do help to make our schools safer,” she said.

Shannon said the school division is benefiting from an increased presence of the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Virginia State Police. 

“From time to time, they will ask if it’s OK for them to just walk through our buildings, and of course, we welcome that,” she said.

She also said she and her team are encouraging division employees to continue forming positive relationships with students in an effort to maintain effective self-regulatory actions among students, as well as to help them know where to go when they’re not feeling OK.

“We are really encouraging positive relationships with our students and staff so that students will feel comfortable telling staff when they don’t feel OK,” she said. “And to that end, we have hired additional staff, and we’ve moved them from the division office level into the buildings.”

Some of these people include the school psychologist, school social worker, behavioral specialists, and the school system has added additional nurses and CNAs.

“We are working on trying to get some additional counselors as well, and by students knowing that these persons are in the buildings, they are going to their offices, they are talking to them, and we are hoping that this will divert some of the negative feelings and possibly negative behavior that may exist if these persons were not there,” Shannon said.

School board member William Worsham commended Shannon and her staff for treating the issue of security with the seriousness that they have.

“I want to thank you for that,” he said.

Shannon said, “I will say that we did have a parent to write us a letter expressing some concerns, and we read all of our parent communication, and we took it seriously. But it was not because of that parent communication that we did this, it was because of the need. The need is there. It exists. But we did appreciate the parent voicing her opinion.”