VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach’s public schools are seeing an increase in disruptive behavior, threats and more extreme behavior among its younger students, according to the school division’s superintendent ahead of a school safety webinar Wednesday.

“We have seen it…hitting or biting a teacher,” said Dr. Aaron Spence, Virginia Beach City Public Schools superintendent. “We’ve seen a lot of those behaviors, maybe throw a chair, we have to clear out classrooms on a regular basis to make sure we can get the child calm and not hurt himself or others.” 

“They don’t seem adequately trained to deal with the mental health issues our students are dealing with,” Spence said. “That is one of the things we are working on  here in Virginia Beach.”

The webinar comes a week after three students from Ocean Lakes High School were arrested and accused of making threatening comments about a teacher online.

Police also confirmed that the students are facing charges of threats of death or bodily injury to persons on school property.

Spence cited a statistic noting 84% of teachers in the U.S. saying their students are developmentally behind in relationship building and self-regulation compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he remains, at this point, unsure on whether metal detectors can help with the uptick in disrupting behavior and threats. He said the division’s Office of School Emergency Management has been looking into their possible use.

“I assume when you mean students coming into the buildings for the start of the day,” Spence said. “(We’re) not doing that right now. That is something we are looking at. I think there is a mixed bag of evidence of the effectiveness of metal detectors, and I think there are some serious considerations we would have to understand before we would do that.” 

City teachers have also told Spence they need more mental health training.

Virginia Beach teachers are also weighing in they need more mental health training, 

Mental health is also front and center in hiring personnel.

“We have asked for three additional behavioral positions in our proposed budget,” Spence said. “These positions work with teachers and principals with students with the most challenging behaviors, and having more would allow for more consistent services across the board.” 

Spence noted the 2018 Blue Ribbon panel on school safety as he said they “have enhanced our security assistant positions, implemented ongoing training requirements for those individuals” as it has “increased staffing for behavior and intervention specialists, school counselors, psychologists and social workers over the past three years.”

Spence is sold on armed officers who are strategically-placed.

“(We’ve) recently begun hiring armed security officers,” Spence said. “We now have 17 armed security officers who are there to support our school resource officers.”

The school system also received a grant for school violence prevention, which Spence said would “allow us to address effective communication during emergencies and an improved notification system.”

More information

The Virginia Beach City Public Schools webinar on school safety and security will take place Wednesday. Elementary families can joint in at 5:30 p.m., and secondary families can join at 6:30 p.m.

Here’s the link to register for the elementary school webinar. To register for the secondary school webinar, go here. The deadline to submit questions is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.