As a community, we are grappling with difficult times as we face incidents and threats of violence in APS and across the country. From school gun violence to increased drug use among students, to discriminatory and hateful actions—these events impact us all.
Every day, you entrust us with teaching, protecting, and supporting your students, and that is a responsibility we all uphold daily, with the utmost diligence and care. We must continue working together, proactively, to support student safety and well-being in every way possible.
My update today focuses on a review of our safety procedures, resources for families, and the emphasis we place on creating a culture of safety, support and clear communication.
Many of the updates outlined below are also available on our website.
Safety Plans: APS has an established Safety, Security, Risk and Emergency Management program that addresses all hazards that may affect schools. Schools follow detailed safety plans developed based on national guidelines, in collaboration with local public safety agencies. We routinely review our procedures and perform safety drills with students. School administrators debrief after critical incidents occur—both nationally and in APS—to improve our training and procedures.
Each school has a school crisis management team including school administrators and designated staff, as well as student services personnel who are the primary points of contact to respond to threatening behavior. We partner with the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD), Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM) and all first responders, to assess and respond to threats both at school and in the community. We continue working with schools on regular training for all staff.
View the safety and security measures in APS.
Student safety takes all of us. If you see something, say something. Report concerning behaviors using the anonymous reporting form or directly to the school’s principal or school counselor.
Communication: In an emergency or threat, staff call 911 or law enforcement and the APS central crisis management team. APS communicates updates with families using our School Talk text, email and robocall system. We share as much information as we can as quickly as we can. The audience, timing and frequency of communications are determined by the severity of the situation and the level of impact.
To receive emergency text alerts, ensure that you have opted in for text messages (text YES to 67587) and that your contact information is up to date in ParentVUE.
Substance Use Education and Resources: Opioids and substance use continue to be a challenge in our schools and nationally. To support our students, we provide instruction annually that focuses on making healthy choices and avoiding health-risk behaviors. APS teachers and substance abuse counselors work in middle and high schools across Arlington to provide regular education to students about the risks of substance use and teach lessons to fourth and fifth-grade students, empowering them with information and strategies to make positive choices. They also support family education events at schools and provide training to APS staff about substance use trends. APS has also partnered with the County’s Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) to make sure that students, families, and school staff have the information and resources they need to prevent substance use-related tragedies from occurring. Find out more about this partnership.
It’s never too early or too late to talk with students about substance use. The earlier you speak to your children about substances, the stronger foundation you are laying down. Find tips for how to speak to your child at every age here in English or access resources in Spanish.
Additional Resources: Below are resources that can provide guidance for how families and caring adults can talk to students about difficult events.
- Talking to Children About Violence (NASP) Amharic |Arabic | English | Spanish
- Supporting Students Experiencing Childhood Trauma: Tips for Parents and Educators (NASP)
- What to Say to Kids When the News is Scary (NPR)
- Helping Kids Navigate Scary News Stories (PBS)
- How to Talk to Kids About Difficult Subjects (Common Sense Media)
Students and their families may always connect with the school counselor, school psychologist, or school social worker if they feel they need additional assistance in navigating challenging times. Thank you for your continued partnership in addressing these concerns and supporting students. We are all in this together.