Gov. Justice unveils $2 million W.Va. School Safety Initiative plan

Gov. Jim Justice holds a press briefing October 4.
Gov. Jim Justice holds a press briefing October 4.(Gov. Justice Youtube)
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 11:14 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday has released the West Virginia School Safety Initiative, a $2 million plan to help protect students and staff in the event of a school shooting or other violence.

Last month, the governor directed the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security to come up with a uniform crisis plan that can be implemented statewide.

It came as the West Virginia Board of Education was also taking a closer look at school safety in the wake of the late May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed 21 lives, including 19 students.

“We’re going to address these failures that have resulted in the loss of life in other places,” said Rob Cunningham, deputy cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

The state School Safety Initiative, which represents a $2 million investment, is outlined in three broad categories: detection and prevention, crisis response, and post-crisis response. It draws on specific information from investigations, including the following assessment: “Research has shown that 91% of school attackers have demonstrated observable psychological, behavioral, or neurological symptoms that could have been detected by school officials.”

According to information released from Gov. Justice’s office, the state School Safety Initiative will focus on an emphasis on leadership with a goal to deploy federal, state, and local communication tools and training.

The School Safety Initiative focuses heavily on detecting and preventing violence in our schools. According to officials, research indicates before most incidents of school violence, there are usually indicators of future violence.

Furthermore, it “builds a foundation for prevention” with a goal to train 12,000 West Virginians -- mainly through a grass roots, local collaboration.

Gov. Justice and Community Services, a section within the WV Department of Homeland Security, developed and implemented the Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Program. The PRO Program is a cooperative effort between schools and law enforcement agencies to “improve students’ attitude and knowledge of criminal justice and law enforcement. The program places certified WV law enforcement officers, and certified prevention Resource Officers in local middle and high schools. The PROs are required to have an office in the school and be on duty in the school a minimum of 35-40 hours per week. Additionally, the PROs typically attend extracurricular school activities throughout the year.

Governor Justice and the WV DLS also developed the School Safety and Security Division within the Division of Protective Services to increase accountability regarding school safety and to make reporting and investigating school threats more effective. The School Safety and Security Division consists of a director and a safety team of School Safety and Security Officers located within each region of the state. Officials say this system provides all West Virginia schools with a centralized command, specifically tasked with the organization, implementation, and management of school safety policies, procedures, and protocols.

The director and each regional officer will be accountable for conducting unannounced security and safety inspections during the school year. Each school will undergo an inspection at least once a year.

Gov. Justice said the general public can help by downloading a mobile app known as “See Send” from the App Store and Google Play.

Governor Justice, WV DHS, and the West Virginia Department of Education decided it was important to create an easy and accessible ‘see something, say something’ reporting system for the state. Users can submit tips for “Crime/Suspicious Activity” or “School Threat or Safety Issues,” and they may also request help for “suicide or addiction.”

All mobile witness tips will be monitored by the West Virginia Emergency Management Division’s Watch Center on a 24/7 basis. The Watch Center will forward reports to the appropriate law enforcement office, the proper school officials, and the necessary state leadership, officials say.

To see a copy of the full report:

For previous coverage:

W.Va. preparing to roll out statewide school safety initiative