Dr. McDade speaking at a podium

Dear PWCS Families, Employees, and Community,

Every day, you entrust us with your students’ academic development, safety, and protection—a responsibility we uphold with the utmost diligence. My heart broke when I learned of the devastating news of last Friday’s tragedy involving gun violence in Newport News, VA, less than three hours away. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Richneck Elementary School community. Unfortunately, the news of the recent school shooting is not an isolated incident and PWCS recognizes the need to respond proactively to this discouraging nationwide trend.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gun violence recently surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for American children. The numbers are staggering. School shootings are at their highest level. Almost two-thirds of gun deaths involving children were homicides, suicides by gun made up nearly 30 percent of child gun deaths, and fatal gun accidents are rising. The abundance and accessibility of guns to our children is distressing and weighs heavily on my heart and mind.

My devout hope is that we all experience a school existence that does not include school shootings. Prince William County Public Schools has a moral obligation to our students, families, staff, and community to prevent gun violence in our schools. We vow to deter, detect, and defend against any form of violence that threatens our community in honor and fulfillment of our Commitment 2: Positive Climate and Culture.

PWCS vows to focus on deterrence through safety education and social-emotional support. We have several programs and projects in place to continue the necessary work of safety education. Our Student Services webpage outlines ways we provide prevention and resources for our students, families, staff, and community. Furthermore, PWCS believes student holistic wellness is a fundamental part of education and human development. In our educational practices, we continue to embed emotional awareness, social connectivity, and reflectively inclusive practices.

PWCS vows to focus on detection through “Say Something” and we are also considering use of security screening technology. As you know, Say Something is an anonymous reporting system, designed especially for students and staff to report concerns of potentially unsafe behavior. Say Something allows school administrators and those in law enforcement to create effective interventions to help prevent violence, suicide, and other forms of threatening behavior.

Additionally, recent advances in security screening technology allow for non-evasive detection and accommodate a high volume of staff and students. This new preventative measure is a critical step toward protection and is already successfully implemented in sports stadiums, national museums, and school divisions like Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina. Manassas City Public Schools has recently voted to install the technology in their high school, and we are dutifully exploring this investment into our students’ and staff’s safety. In the coming weeks, PWCS will begin engaging families and community members to discuss and gather input regarding the potential addition of advanced security screening technology in PWCS schools as early as the 2023-24 school year.

PWCS focuses on defense through the restructuring of our emergency response plan in partnership with the crisis and post-crisis response programs of the I Love U Guys Foundation, ongoing monitoring of school security protocols, and budgetary investments in our building infrastructure. We are streamlining our plan to ensure clarity for students, staff, and families in emergencies. This crucial training will begin in early February with a planned roll out later in the month. I appreciate your support in ensuring our students are learning in a safe and welcoming environment.

Our ongoing monitoring of security protocols includes perimeter and interior checks to ensure building and classroom doors are locked and other security procedures are being followed as intended. Budgetary investments include every school maintaining security vestibules and visitor entry systems. Moreover, we are continuing investments in radio and camera upgrades. We remain vigilant in the innovative implementation of national best practices in school safety to protect and safeguard the physical, social, and emotional well-being of every student and staff member.

PWCS will be closed this Monday, January 16, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I encourage everyone to not only reflect on Dr. King’s revolutionary work against injustice, but also serve your community in meaningful ways to effectuate change. Service builds mutual responsibility and accountability for a better tomorrow, which brings us closer to Dr. King’s vision.


Dr. McDade Signature

LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Prince William County Public Schools