School Safety Forum Held for Charlottesville, Albemarle - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

School Safety Forum Held for Charlottesville, Albemarle

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Thursday night, children's safety took center stage as parents, educators and police came together to learn about ways to prevent a tragedy.

The forum was targeted at figuring out how to make both Charlottesville and Albemarle school divisions as safe as possible, but not everyone was pleased with the outcome.

On the heels of the Sandy Hook tragedy, crisis response methods for schools all over the country were put under a microscope. Now, both Charlottesville and Albemarle school divisions are looking at prevention techniques they have in place to make sure they never have to put those crisis plans to use.

"Prevention has to start before there is a gunman at your door," said UVA professor Dewey Cornell.

Audience members heard from both city and county police chiefs and school administrators.

"School safety is always on the front burner, it's always very important to us and we haven't been lax in what we do and we don't plan on resting on the fact that we haven't had any major incidents," said Matt Haas, Albemarle's assistant superintendent.

But when it came time for the moderated Q & A portion of the forum, during which parents wrote questions on cards, they voiced concerns about what is being done to protect students from intruders in schools and about 911 response times to schools in rural areas.

While parents appreciated the opportunity, they say they wanted more from the forum.

"I wonder why we couldn't have had more of a conversation instead of what I considered a staged controlled public relations forum," said parent John Rudder.

"Really it was just propaganda, it was them telling us what they wanted us to hear and censoring our questions and our feelings and our thoughts," said another parent, Jennifer Burman.

Organizers say that they will take this feedback into consideration the next time an opportunity like this occurs, but some parents aren't convinced.

"I have a feeling that it's going to continue in the same regard where they're going to decide what the important issues are and ours will continue to get swept under the rug," Burman said.

The event was all part of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative. Organizers say they are happy with the forum's outcome but will take the feedback into consideration.

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