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Justice Announces $2 Million School Safety Initiative

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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Homeland Security Rob Cunningham, top right, discusses the state's new School Safety Initiative during Tuesday's COVID-19 press briefing.

Gov. Jim Justice announced a new school safety initiative that aims to unify the state's prevention and response to school shootings.

The $2 million initiative is funded by the West Virginia Department of Education and represents a collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, as well as state, local and federal law enforcement to prepare against violent incidents in schools.

“You see the tragedies that have happened, and it happened all across this land, and we know we're not immune to a tragedy that could happen here,” Justice said. “So we've taken steps to make sure that we bring everybody together, that if God forbid, we had a bad incident that was happening here in West Virginia, all the agencies would be coordinating together.”

Justice announced the initiative during Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, where he was joined by West Virginia Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Homeland Security Rob Cunningham.

“With that money we're going to have state school safety officers whose sole responsibility is school safety,“ he said. “We have people in each county who do school safety, but they wear many hats and now we’ll have people who are focused 100 percent on school safety.”

Cunningham said the initiative’s ultimate goal is to have an officer in every school in the state, but conceded that recruitment and future funding will be obstacles. He also said the program will focus on mental health .

“Our school safety program relies heavily on preventing a violent incident,” Cunningham said. “We rely heavily upon the DHHR and addressing mental health issues to recognize when we have a problem so we can intercede.”

Intervention will partially be achieved through the “See Send” app from My Mobile Witness, Inc. Cunningham said all community members can use the app to notify authorities of concerns or report an incident.

“They're a couple clicks away from being able to send that information to a centralized location,” he said. “It will go to an emergency management watch center, and the watch center will send it immediately out to the people it needs to go to.”

Cunningham said the initiative will provide one uniform approach to get all first responders, citizens, teachers, and students moving together towards the ultimate goal of keeping children safe in schools.

North Central/Morgantown Reporter, cschulz@wvpublic.org, 304-284-1497, @SchulzReports

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