The safety of students attending Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) was discussed at length on Monday night.
A Community Conversation about School Safety was held at Colgan High School in Manassas.
Kristina Schnack Kotlus from PwcMoms.com served as the moderator.
The appropriate actions students and adults should take if someone makes a threat was one topic nine Prince William County officials and professionals discussed.
Police Chief Barry Barnard encouraged members of the audience to report threats, even if they aren’t sure if the threats are legitimate.
“We need people to talk to us, and tell us things,” Barnard said. “And my counsel to anybody is don’t evaluate the information. That’s our job.”
Barnard reminded attendees that they can call 911 or PWCS’ anonymous Tip Line at (703) 791-2821.
Scott Miller, a therapist at Psychological and Life Skills Associates in Woodbridge, echoed Barnard’s remarks and said that all threats should be taken seriously.
“Report those threats, let law enforcement do their job. If your kid is telling you he’s going to kill someone, let them talk to a mental health professional,” Miller said. “And don’t try to tease out or decide whether it’s serious or not on your own. Engage the people that are trained and experienced to handle these kinds of situations.”
According to Barnard, 47 threats have been made in Prince William County since February 14, when a mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
From those 47 incidents, only a handful of people were charged. School action was taken on some perpetrators.
Officials, Barnard said, also have an option to lead children and their families to counseling and other services.
“So, we’re not rushing to charge people just to charge people. We’re in the risk management business in some sense, and that includes counseling,” Barnard said. “Police people, law enforcement people we understand the value of counselors and of mental health, and of social services and human services. We get that. We support that 100 percent.”
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