NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Education Association hosted a forum on school safety Wednesday night at Lake Taylor High School. Students, parents and teachers from Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake came out to voice their concerns and ask questions about behavior and safety in schools.

It was a relatively small turnout over a topic that’s often top of mind in Hampton Roads.

“We’re getting really frustrated with our students experiencing violence,” said Melissa Corrigan, a Norfolk parent.

During Wednesday’s forum, a local panel cited the pandemic for exacerbating behavioral issues in schools and a lack of availability to place students in alternative programs as seats quickly fill up.

Staci Martin, a Virginia Beach school board member, explained how negative behavior coincided with skill acquisition as students struggle with lesson concepts. Martin stressed the importance of positive behavior and interventions support specialists or PBIS.

“There aren’t a lot of alternatives, which means we really need to heavily invest in PBIS,” Martin said. “We need to find the solutions through PBIS, through helping changing behaviors, through getting psychology positions, getting those TA’s in the classroom.”

Corrigan attended the forum with her three children. She started a petition hours earlier demanding action to stop violence and bullying in school.

“Really focus on discipline and focus on the shared expectations of what will be accepted and what will not be accepted in the classroom,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan told 10 On Your Side she felt the Virginia Education Association’s forum was eye-opening in some ways.

“I get that there’s a lot of bureaucratic red tape involved and I understand that,” Corrigan said.

She encouraged more parents to show up and speak out.

“I do think more parents should come out and see first-hand and hear first-hand what the challenges are so that we can better frame ourselves to work with those challenges,” Corrigan said.

Members of the Virginia Education Association said Wednesday’s forum is the first of its kind held on school safety. They hope to hold additional forums to continue the conversation.