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Roanoke middle schools will launch a gun violence prevention program this summer



Roanoke, Virginia – The goal of a brand-new summer school program at Roanoke City Public Schools is to deter gang participation and gun violence.

The bill, named “Community Builders,” was supported by local politician Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed it into law last week.

“This one actually being administered by the school system is the first of its kind here in Virginia,” Rasoul said. “We think doing some prevention work at the middle school is a way to build some of those positive habits as we move forward.”

To develop the program that would be accessible to incoming eighth graders, Roanoke hopes to obtain half a million dollars over the next few years, according to Rasoul.
The superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools, Dr. Verletta White, addressed the General Assembly’s education committee earlier this year.

“‘When did things start to go wrong?’” Dr. White said. “Many times they will point to the middle school level. ‘That’s when you should have talked to me.’ That’s what they’ll tell you.”

The program will have multiple objectives, according to Rasoul, though specifics are still being worked out.

“It’s really comprehensive in thinking through not only your workforce development but also thinking through the social and emotional wellbeing,” Rasoul said. “Thinking through the future when you’re wanting to potentially figure out is there a college track for you. I mean it’s not too easy in middle school to begin thinking through some of that.”

Leaders at the school intend to start the program in a few months.

“When school is out and opportunities for engagement are limited, gun-related incidents often increase,” Dr. White said. “This alarming trend underscores the urgent need for effective interventions.”


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