Roanoke City Schools, Police address recent school threats

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke Police Department and Roanoke City Public Schools released a join message Thursday afternoon addressing recent threats against schools.

Several Roanoke City schools were placed on lockdowns or secure and holds throughout the week, each prompting a response from police and robocalls to parents.

The video message posted to the social media pages of both agencies Thursday afternoon featured Chief of Police Sam Roman, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verletta White, Colonel Ferguson with the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office and School Board Vice Chair Joyce Watkins.

Roman began the message by acknowledging the week brought Roanoke City an unprecedented number of threats which ranged in their specificities but all contained some message of harm. Many were determined to be false or a hoax, but Roman said they all are and will continue to be taken seriously.

The chief expressed the tremendous strain responding to these threats puts on the agency, but said they will continue to be diligent in investigating and placing charges when appropriate.

“These are not funny, they’re not jokes,” Roman said. “If your words are alarming enough to rise to the attention of law enforcement, you could face misdemeanor and or felony charges, consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life.”

Roman emphasized people should continue to report suspicious behavior and activity. He also pressed parents and guardians to have conversations with their students about appropriate behavior and to report suspicious activity.

A message from White followed, saying she understood the threats were causing fear.

“Apparently this is a game to some students,” she said. “We cannot continue to do what we’ve been doing and expect a different result. Therefore we need to change.”

White said the school district has been sending messages to families with every occurrence of a threat or possible threat.

“Going forward, we of course will continue to follow our safety practices, and we’ll alert our families of anything that is urgent or imminent,” White said. “What we will not do is unnecessarily alarm families and the community by sending messages about threats that are clearly a hoax or game. If we are unsure we will notify you.”

From there, White told students their behavior with regards to the threats needed to change, or consequences would follow, specifically that extracurricular activities are now in jeopardy.

“That could mean canceling homecoming events, canceling sporting events, canceling after-school clubs, activities and concerts,” she explained. “It could also mean adding days to the school calendar for any lost instructional time.”

White said if students think of pulling pranks, they will press charges to the fullest extent of the law.

She thanked students who are doing what they are supposed to during the school day and who are following rules. She also expressed gratitude to teachers and staff and also reminded parents to have important conversations with their children and to monitor their activity.

“Parents, I need you to partner with us,” she said. “Check your child’s social media accounts. If you don’t know how to do it. Reach out to your child’s school, and we will help you find the resources you need. Check their rooms and their bookbags.”

White also had a message specifically for the community at large.

“To our community: Remember, everything that you see on social media is not necessarily true,” White said. “Do not contribute to false information that is being shared. That is not fair to our students, our staff, our families or our community. We are better than this.”