Peter Noonan, superintendent of the Falls Church City Schools, issued the following statement yesterday in the wake of the mass killing incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Dear FCCPS Community,
Our hearts and condolences go to those in Broward County today who are living through the aftermath of the disturbing event yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
I wanted to reach out to you today to reassure you we are doing everything we can to protect your children while they are in our care. While our nation is seeing sad and frightening violence in public schools with increasing frequency, I still believe the public schools in Falls Church are among the safest places in our community for our students.
Here are a few of the ways we work towards creating a safe and secure learning environment at FCCPS:
Controlled Access: At every school, while school is in session, all exterior building doors are locked. They are remotely controlled and monitored allowing for quick response time in the event of an emergency in which entries need to be closed or accessed.
Closed Circuit Television: At every school, we have digital cameras – more than 150 systemwide – continually monitoring activity inside and out.
Human Security: At every school, we employ Securitas security guards. These men and women monitor our entrances and security cameras, patrol our grounds (often sending shortcutting commuters on their way), and lend extra supervision during events. They are visible throughout the school. Our buildings and property are off limits to the general public, without permission, during school hours. Included are our outdoor athletic facilities such as the GMHS football field and track and tennis courts.
Trained Staff and Students: At every school, our staff and students prepare and drill all year long on various emergency procedures. The drills are slightly different at each school accounting for the age and ability of the students. Such exercises include “lockdown drills” for active-shooter emergencies, and “evacuation drills” for fire emergencies, as well as Earthquake preparedness drills. Teachers receive medical training annually to include CPR and first aid which would be essential during a crisis.
Skilled Counselors: At every school, our counselors are available for students struggling socially and emotionally. They, along with our teachers, collaborate to help all students become the well-adjusted adults of tomorrow. They are often the first to spot when a child may be in crisis and can intervene.
Visitor Vetting: At every school, every visitor must sign in with identification which is compared to law enforcement databases before the person is allowed to remain in the building. This extra step can feel cumbersome for the visitor who’s running rate to work or are on a tight schedule. But it is necessary to maintain the high degree of safety for the staff and students in our buildings.
We remain vigilant in our practices and continue to drill and prepare for the unthinkable.
If your child is confused or frightened by the recent events, please have them reach out to their counselor or teacher. Our personnel are trained to help students feel safe.
Here resources you may find useful if you are having difficulty in talking with your children about these horrible events. Talking to Children about Violence – National Association of School Psychologists. Explaining the News to Our Kids – Common Sense Media
Remember, safety begins with each of us; staff, students, and community.
Please: “If you see something, say something.”
Dr. Peter J. Noonan
Superintendent, Falls Church City Schools