NORFOLK, Va. — School divisions across Hampton Roads are now stepping up security in response to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Because of the shooting, a lot of people across our area are now questioning how safe schools, like Newport News teacher and mother Mary Vause.
“Especially since Newport News has had two school shootings this year, one at Heritage High and one at Menchville High," Vause said. "It’s just kind of surreal and you just start being like, 'Is it going to happen in our classroom? Is it going to happen in my children’s classroom?'"
Superintendents at Suffolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth school divisions all said they are asking their respective police departments to increase the number of police officers in and around schools.
A letter to parents from Chesapeake City Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, Police Chief K. L. Wright, and Deputy Fire Chief Sam Gulisano said the Chesapeake Police Department will be providing an additional police presence on school campuses and in the surrounding areas throughout the remainder of the school year.
Portsmouth Public Schools superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy said something similar in a letter to parents posted on the school's website.
"We are fortunate to have strong partnerships with the Portsmouth Police Department and the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office," Dr. Bracy said. "We have been in contact with both of these agencies today to request an increased presence of officers and deputies in our buildings through the end of the school year."
Suffolk Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon also sent out a letter to parents. In it, Dr. Gordon said: "School Resource Officers will be more visible and vigilant throughout our buildings... we have also been in contact with the Suffolk Police Department to increase police presence in the vicinity of our schools."
Over at Hampton City Schools, a spokesperson said the division has “layered safety measures” in place including a buzzer system on all front doors, cameras, and school resource officers.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools superintendent Doctor Aaron Spence said on Twitter: “I don’t know what to say. I have no words. I am heartbroken. I’m angry. I’ve been in tears…”
Vause said moving forward, school leaders should keep an eye on social media posts.
“From what I’ve been reading, a lot of these shooters, they post about it on social media, first," she said. "I think concerning social media posts need to be taken really, really seriously.”
Vause also said she wants to see politicians at all levels take more steps to try and prevent gun violence.
“It’s so heartbreaking in 2018 with the Parkland Shooting, with the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, and every single time it’s like... something has to be done now, and every single time it’s just not," Vause said. “We need elected officials who will actually have the courage to take a stand on this instead of just kicking the can down the road.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin got a briefing from top education officials in the state about what can be done to protect students, as well as what resources are available to “provide mental health access as needed.”
A spokeswoman for the governor said as part of a statement, “The Governor previously requested an additional $50 million in the budget for School Resource Officers and is hopeful the General Assembly will prioritize this important request."