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Department of Homeland Security reminds public of West Virginia Safe Schools Helpline following school shooting in Texas

5/31/2022

​If you have information about a threat to a school, call the WV Safe Schools Helpline at 1-866-723-3982 (1-866-SAFE-WVA) or email safesch​ool@wv.gov

CHARLESTON, WV – Following the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, this week, the WV Department of Homeland Security today is reminding all West Virginians about the Safe Schools Helpline.

The West Virginia Safe Schools Helpline is a toll-free number, answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that residents can call at 1-866-723-3982    (1-866-SAFE-WVA).
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Anyone can report information regarding anything that could harm students, staff, or property at any of West Virginia’s schools. Callers may remain anonymous upon request.

Concerned citizens can also email tips to safeschool@wv.gov.

“If you see something, you need to say something,” said DHS Secretary Jeff Sandy. “West Virginia has taken countless steps over the years to make our schools as safe as possible. We have established initiatives like the Safe Schools Program and the Safe Schools Helpline. Just six months ago, Governor Justice provided over $1 million so that we could add over 50 Prevention Resource Officers across the state.

“West Virginians should be very proud. But we can’t be complacent,” Secretary Sandy continued. “Everyone – from the Department of Homeland Security to the general public – has an obligation to speak up if they sense trouble.

“You know if something doesn’t feel right. If you get information that you feel might pose a danger to our students and teachers at any of West Virginia’s schools, you need to contact the Safe Schools Helpline.”

The WV Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) houses the state’s Safe Schools Program, which provides support to public school systems around the state to enhance security and safety at all West Virginia educational facilities. The West Virginia Safe Schools Helpline was created in 2005 in an effort to open the lines of communication between emergency personnel and concerned citizens. 

Since its inception, the Helpline has received nearly 3,000 calls from those concerned with school safety. On Feb. 1, 2019, a caller reported a perceived threat on social media against Huntington High School. WVEMD staff immediately notified law enforcement and school officials, who then notified parents and students. Less than 10 hours after the threat was reported, the Huntington Police Department apprehended the suspect and any further violence against our students was prevented.

“The outcomes from the Safe Schools Helpline and Safe Schools Program are an example of what can happen when agencies work together toward a goal common to everyone: keeping schools in West Virginia safe,” said EMD Director GE McCabe. “The recent tragedy in Texas should serve as a reminder to us all of how important it is for everyone to remain alert, pay attention, and to act when there is a threat of danger.”

At the direction of Gov. Jim Justice, the WV Department of Homeland Security has worked collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies – both state and federal – over the past several years to ensure that all West Virginia students are learning in the safest environment possible.

In November 2021, Gov. Justice awarded over $1 million in Justice Assistance Grant program funds to several West Virginia counties, which enabled more than 50 certified West Virginia Prevention Resource Officers (PROs) to be placed in elementary, middle, and high schools across the state.

The three primary components of the PRO program are as follows:

  1. Prevention: Officers facilitate classes on non-traditional educational topics
  2. Mentoring: Officers are trained on how to be a positive mentor to students they interact with daily
  3. Safety: Officers are trained to recognize potential danger, prevent violence, and to respond to dangerous school situations

Additionally, the West Virginia Fusion Center (WVFC) continues to monitor threats using Real Time Open-Source Analysis software so that any danger to West Virginia students – or any citizen for that matter – can immediately be identified and intercepted.

In the event that a threat is identified, such as the threat of a school shooter, the WVFC immediately contacts the appropriate law enforcement agency, the West Virginia Emergency Management Division’s (WVEMD) Safe School Director, and the local Federal Bureau of Investigations, Joint Terrorism Task Force (FBI JTTF), so that the danger is appropriately addressed. Additionally, the WVFC, as part of the National Fusion Center Network, conducts analyses of trends of active shooter events nationwide so that West Virginia is always one step ahead.

WVDHS and the WVFC also work collaboratively with the resident offices for the FBI located throughout West Virginia to ensure that all West Virginia school faculty have access to active shooter trainings that are offered by the FBI. WVDHS has provided necessary funding for these trainings so that teachers can attend courses after hours. According to the FBI, those receiving this training include approximately 7,000 individuals and 94 entities; most of which are schools.

The FBI’s Charleston office currently has four active shooter training events scheduled for August, before the start of the new school year. If interested, please reach out to the FBI Charleston Office or the West Virginia Fusion Center.

Other available trainings at WVEMD include Stop the Bleed, Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program, Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, Tactical Emergency Casualty Care, I Love You Guys Program Standard Reunification Method, and Active Intruder Awareness and Safe Schools courses. For more information on these trainings, contact Lora Lipscomb with the WVEMD at 304-558-5380 or lora.d.lipscomb@wv.gov.


SBA Information
The School Building Authority (SBA) of West Virginia has contributed millions of dollars over the years in efforts to prevent similar school tragedies by establishing safe school entrances. The School Access Safety Act of 2009 provided the SBA with funding to facilitate vulnerability assessments in every public K-12 school in the state. During this time, West Virginia was one the first states to act in providing safer school environments. In approximately 2011, the SBA implemented Quality and Performance Standards, which address safe school designs.

These Quality and Performance Standards include the following:

Doors, Windows, and Window Walls:

  • All glazing at exterior entry doors and sidelights shall be constructed of security glass from the finished floor elevation to a point of 7 feet above finished floor.
  • All exterior doors, not intended as means of ingress, shall have panic exiting devices installed on the interior and no exterior hardware.
Main Entrance Doors and Frames:
  • ¼” security glass infill
Site Design Criteria:
  • Bollards, sufficient enough to stop a passenger vehicle traveling 25 mph, shall be installed at all entrances accessible by vehicular traffic. Bollards shall be spaced in a manner necessary to prevent vehicular entrance to the facility, yet provide adequate space for occupants to exit.
Building Design Criteria:
  • Design professionals shall incorporate design elements in accordance with the School Access Safety Plan. Elements of the “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” concept shall also be incorporated. Where risk and vulnerability assessments are conduc​​​​ted, incorporate recommendations into the design. All new school designs shall incorporate numbering graphics on all exterior doors made of a reflective material that are legible from a distance of 200’ in low light conditions. The interior of all exterior doors shall have this same corresponding number located on the door that is legible from within the building area to occupants.
  • Administrative offices shall be oriented adjacent to the main entry vestibule with direct line of sight to the main building entrance and parking areas. Where possible, the administrative offices shall have line of sight to all site access roads.
  • Provide security foyer at main entrance with locked exterior entry doors, controlled from the general office. A separate visitor entrance and waiting area shall be designed adjacent to the main entrance. Provide a pass-thru transaction window constructed of security glass from waiting area to the general office. Design strategies shall incorporate School Access Safety Plan requirements.
  • Cafeteria/commons area shall be separated from the main entrance and administrative office by use of mechanically operated access doors. Additionally, all academic spaces shall be separated from common building spaces by use of similar doors. All doors shall remain in open position during normal school functions with the capability to be closed and locked mechanically from the office area.

Since 2017, the SBA has funded approximately 35 projects that include safe school entries and/or new safe school designs.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2022
Contact: Morgan M. Switzer
Deputy General Counsel/Communications Coordinator 
Morgan.M.Switzer@wv.gov, (304) 389-9043