Risk Management Frequently Asked Questions
What is emergency preparedness?
A: Stafford County Public Schools has taken steps to ensure your child’s safety while in school. Each school has developed emergency preparedness plans including the steps staff will take in the event of an emergency, including a parent communication plan and evacuation plan.
How can I stay informed?
A: Stafford County Public Schools broadcast emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of local media resources. General emergency messages, including early and late school opening and closing can be found on the division’s web site home page (https://www.staffordschools.net). Emergency messages are also transmitted to local media, including television and radio stations. Parents are encouraged to use these media sources for updates on emergency situations.
How will my child’s school handle an emergency situation?
A: All Stafford County Public Schools and facilities have an emergency preparedness plan. The specifics of each plan differ for each location. A response to a situation will differ based on the specifics of the situation. The flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response. In general, each school has a crisis management team; develops evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown procedures; maintains a portable critical response kit that contains key information and supplies; designates one or more appropriate evacuation sites; provides training to personnel and updating of the plan; maintains checklists for dealing with specific types of incidents; and provides resources for help before, during and after an event. All Stafford County Public Schools plans have been reviewed and school crisis teams have received training.
How can I see the security plan for my child’s school?
A: Stafford County Public Schools does not release this type of specific information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (verbatim: Engineering and architectural drawings, operational, procedural, tactical planning or training manuals, or staff meeting minutes or other records, the disclosure of which would reveal surveillance techniques, personnel deployments, alarm or security systems or technologies, or operational and transportation plans or protocols to the extent such disclosure would jeopardize the security of any facility, building or structure or the safety of persons using such facility, building or structure). The law provides specific exclusion to the type of information that can be released. A division crisis management written plan serves as the template that schools use to construct their own site-specific plans.
What is lockdown?
A: An emergency may prevent the safe evacuation of a school building and require steps to isolate students and faculty from danger by instituting a school lockdown. In an interior lockdown situation, all students are kept in classrooms or other designated locations that are away from the danger. Faculty members are responsible for accounting of students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. School personnel will also secure building entrances, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building. Exterior lockdown procedures may also be used to ensure the safety of students when an incident occurs in the community. Parents are permitted access to the building and to their children if it is safe for them to do so.
What will Stafford County Public Schools do if an emergency situation occurs while students are in school?
A: The specific actions taken by Stafford County Public Schools in any emergency situation, both division-wide and at individual schools, will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action taken would depend on several factors, including the level of threat and the advice or directive of local, state, and federal agencies. The safety of students and staff members will be the primary concern in any decision.
What is shelter-in-place?
A: Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure (measured in minutes or hours, not days) designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the school area, students would be brought indoors. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut off the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). This would create a neutral pressure in the building, meaning the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building. No stockpiling of water and food is needed for shelter-in-place. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would require that the school community, as well as the community at large, would take direction from the federal emergency management officials. Parents should not be concerned that, during a shelter-in-place activity, they might be separated from their children for long periods of time. That will not happen because if the air outside the school is safe for parents to breathe, it will be safe for their children to breathe. School system personnel have developed a plan that uses the best possible method for ensuring the safety of students and staff members in this type of crisis. Stafford County Public Schools personnel will keep children safe for parents until the parents can pick them up.
What if a child is exposed to a biological or chemical contaminant?
A: In the event of an exposure and the child is showing obvious symptoms, trained staff members (school nurses) on hand would conduct basic decontamination per the emergency training directive.
What is basic decontamination?
A: In the event that a child shows symptoms of exposure, school staff members would conduct basic decontamination. The child would be separated from other children and directed to wash thoroughly with soap and water. If possible, school personnel would make sure that the child showered and would provide alternative clothing. The exposed clothing would be put in plastic bags, and the bags would be sealed. Removing a contaminated person’s clothing effectively removes in excess of 80 percent of contaminants from the person; the alternative would be to do nothing and thereby cause the person to suffer pain and possible serious injury.
Will I be allowed to pick up my child?
A: Stafford County Public Schools does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or school activities. It is the school division’s intent to make sure that children are safe inside their schools until such a time that the threat has been reduced. Parents will be informed and reunited with their children as soon as it is safe to do so.
Does the school have a parent/child reunification plan?
A: Yes. Each school has developed a reunification plan for reuniting parents with their children after a shelter-in-place emergency has occurred. Additionally, if public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be safely transported by bus to a designated parent-student reunification center. Parents will be informed of the reunification location via the school division’s emergency plan and local media. At the reunification cener, students will be released to their parents upon presentation of proper identification.
Will the evacuation and parent reunification locations be given ahead of time?
A: Stafford County Public Schools does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. This law provides specific exclusion to the type of information that can be released. Also, during emergency situations, circumstances could arise that might force changes to previously designated locations. Parents will be informed of parent/student reunification center locations via the local media and through school resources.
Are schools stockpiling food and water?
A: The school division is taking action to make sure that schools and offices have the appropriated resources available for a short-term event. In the event of a large-scale catastrophic event, Stafford County Public Schools would rely on federal and state authorities for assistance. The Stafford County Public Schools shelter-in-place plan is to be used only in the event of a chemical, biohazard, or radiological event. In any one of these situations – which are usually localized (i.e., do not cover a wide are) — persons typically need to remain indoors only a few hours before the hazard literally blows away. After the danger has passed, children and staff members will be free to go to their homes. There may be other events that would cause people to be housed for longer periods of time in public buildings such as schools. In such an event, other community agencies, including the Red Cross, would be responsible for providing food and water. In all critical events of this type, the school district becomes part of a larger emergency response team.
What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?
A: The Transportation Department will be in contact with the Central Office for instructions in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transport. Bus drivers will be informed to avoid driving toward the crisis location. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification center location via the school division’s web-site and local media.
Can I pick up my child?
A: Parents will be allowed to pick up their children unless public safety officials have declared a shelter-in-place response, or there is some other reason why access to the facility is restricted. During any emergency, school personnel will maintain a safe and normal environment for children within the school. Schools will not automatically be cancelled in emergency situations because the school may be the safest place for children to be.
Who can pick up my children?
A: Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the student’s emergency card or who do not have written parent authorization. Parents and guardians, at the start of each school year, will complete the emergency card. Parents and guardians are encouraged to update the emergency card as needed throughout the school year.
What about my child’s medication?
A: If your child takes medication regularly, you the parent, should make sure that the school has an appropriate amount of additional medication on hand. Talk with your child’s school nurse for more information.
How will my children know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack?
A: Parents should inform students that if a crisis occurs while they are in school, their teacher will provide them with appropriate instructions. Parents are also encouraged to prepare a family disaster plan and practice it so that everyone will remember what to do if a disaster does occur. Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the family’s response and recovery efforts. Teach your children to recognize danger signals, including what smoke detectors and fire alarms sound like.
Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports?
A: Live coverage of a potentially violent event can be too graphic for children. Teachers have been directed to limit television viewing in the classroom, particularly for younger students.
How are field trips handled?
A: The impact of any critical situation on field trips, both division-wide and at individual schools, will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. Cancellations could also include travel to academies, community programs, and other events. There may be circumstances that could require the cancellation of field trips to certain areas.
All school buses are equipped with radio communications with the Transportation Department. If a field trip is under way and must be cancelled, buses would be directed to return to the school or a designated safe area. Any such decision would be announced through the district web page and school phone system. Parents are reminded that Stafford County Public Schools retains the right to cancel any field trip for safety reasons and is not responsible for any financial obligations parents may have.
What security measures are provided in our schools both during the day and after hours?
A: We strive to be proactive rather than reactive where safety and security are concerned. The following safety measures are in place for the safety of every student.
- Each school has an AIPHONE Video Intercom System for secure access.
- Each school has a Crisis Response Team with selected members that have participated in training to ensure appropriate response on a variety of potential school emergencies.
- All exterior school doors are either locked or under surveillance.
- Interior and exterior Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is installed in all schools.
- As a condition of entry, visitors must sign-in and wear a visitors I.D. badge.
- All principals and key administrators have been issued by the Sheriff’s Department, 2 way radios which connect directly with all schools, central office and 911.
- Each school has approximately 15 two-way radios to assist in emergency communications.
- Intrusion alarms are installed in every school.
- The school division’s parent notification system, Black Board, will be used to call and email parents during an emergency situation in order to provide the most current information about the emergency situation.
- Each school has an Emergency Response Plan that serves as a guide for a variety of school emergencies.
- Students are constantly reminded to share any information with their SRO or school staff that could be potentially harmful to a school.
- Code of Student Conduct and supporting School Board Policies and Regulations.
- Each school has a Raptor System that instantly screens out registered sex offenders from schools.
How can parents be assured that our schools remain safe?
A: One of the top priorities in the school division is to create a learning environment free from disruption. Testimony to this, are the security measures we have. This is also echoed in the Code of Student Conduct and supporting School Board policies and regulations.
The Department of Safety, Security and Risk Management is continually reviewing and updating security measures to include new technologies and procedures in order to provide the safest environment possible for our students and staff. We review national, state, and local safety protocol to gain knowledge of best practices on the subject of school safety and learn lessons from other school divisions.
Most importantly, parents should know that safe school audits are conducted on a routine basis in every school. The audit process provides a comprehensive overview of Stafford County Public Schools’ overall security and emergency preparedness. The information gathered from the audit is used to improve security and emergency preparedness throughout the school division.
Unfortunately, we live in a day and time when guarantees are no longer feasible. What we can guarantee is this: An absolute commitment to staying continually vigilant and aware and to working with law enforcement on an ongoing basis because, as has already been proved, effective communication is the key to proactive success.
What is the role of a School Resource Officer (SRO)?
A: School Resource Officers (SRO) help create a safe and positive learning environment by building and maintaining successful working relationships between police, school administrators, students, parents, and staff. All middle and high schools have an SRO on-site; however, they are also available to respond to the elementary schools when needed.
What is the procedure if a student or community member reports a suspected threat or reports seeing a weapon on school property?
A: All threats are taken seriously by school administration. Police are notified and officers and school personnel work together to thoroughly investigate any threat, whether it is made verbally, in writing, via email, text message, or Internet posting. Most importantly, if a student, parent, or community member has knowledge of a threat, we encourage them to immediately report it to police or school officials instead of spreading rumors. The sooner we know about a potential threat – the sooner the investigation can begin. We have also established a collaborative hotline between our school district and law enforcement to report any type of threat or crime.
Is school safety training ongoing for staff?
A: At the beginning of the 2014 school year, threat assessment training was conducted by the Department of Criminal Justice. Administrators, guidance counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and SROs attended the training. This training focused on the prevention of school violence and provided:
- Strategies for educators, law enforcement officials, and others to identify, intervene, and prevent targeted acts of school violence.
- Information on the threat assessment process and how to identify students who are potentially dangerous and may pose a risk of targeted violence.
What disciplinary action does the school take if a student makes a threat – credible or otherwise?
A: First and foremost, anyone who makes a threat against a school could face criminal charges. A threat could be made verbally, in writing, via email, text message, or Internet posting. As appropriate to the situation he/she will be recommended for expulsion or other disciplinary action such as an alternative placement as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
How does the school division communicate with parents should there be a credible threat against a student or school?
A: Should there be a threat to cause harm against a student or school, the first call to action will be to investigate this threat in partnership with the local police. Depending on the specifics of the threat, an individual parent could be contacted. The school division also has access to the Black Board System. This communication system allows the principal or school administration to quickly send information out via phone and/or email. Letters are often sent home to parents and announcements can be posted on individual school websites or the division website vbschools.com.
With a large number of students using social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook, Twitter, or any other online source, does anyone from the school division monitor these outlets for threats that could potentially cause harm to a school, students or staff?
A: The school division is not in the position to monitor social media accounts for the nearly 28,000 students in our schools. When we are made aware of a potential threat, school administration works in tandem with police to review the source of the threat and the method of communication such as phone, text, or the Internet.
What is the referral/examination process if a staff member has concerns about the emotional state or behavior of a student?
A: The process is to have the staff member make a verbal or written referral to a school administrator. The school administrator will then investigate the referral to determine the appropriate course of action. If deemed necessary, a threat assessment is conducted by a school psychologist.
What services does the school division offer for students who may have/or be suspected of having emotional problems or who may pose a danger/threat to others?
A: The school division does offer direct mental health services for students who may have emotional problems or who may pose a danger/threat to others when these issues affect the students’ educational performance or relationships with others in school through our psychological services staff. The staff consists of licensed clinical and school psychologists who provide individual and group counseling to students and consultation to school staff and parents. They work with parents to discuss strategies that can be implemented during school hours or options to seek outside assistance when those issues have no educational impact or are beyond the limitations of school personnel.
As a parent or student how can we help keep our schools safe?
A: School safety is everyone’s responsibility – staff, students, parents, and the entire community. Please report any safety concerns you may have to your school principal. Students and parents can be crime stoppers. If you have information about criminal activity in school, on school grounds, or in our community call: 540-658-2020.
For additional questions, please contact your school principal or the Stafford County Public Schools’ Department of Safety, Security & Risk Management at (540) 658-6000.