State House Speaker Kirk Cox, R–Colonial Heights, released the Select Committee on School Safety’s final report to the General Assembly on Dec. 19.
The report contains 24 priority recommendations for consideration during the 2019 General Assembly session. The committee presented a comprehensive set of recommendations to make students and schools safer through threat prevention, counseling realignment and increased mental health services, and increased training for school personnel and school security.
“Though Virginia has taken steps in recent years to bolster school safety and is widely viewed as a national model, the events in (Parkland) Florida renewed questions about the effectiveness of Virginia’s policies and whether more could be done to ensure student safety in each of Virginia’s schools,” Cox said.
“The Select Committee’s work represents bipartisan collaboration to tackle issues that are important not only to the students and teachers, but to mothers and fathers across Virginia who entrust the safety of their child to us on a daily basis,” said Chris Jones, R–Suffolk, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Technology can oftentimes be a first line of defense in keeping a dangerous individual out of a school,” said Nick Rush, R–Montgomery, chairman of the Infrastructure and Security subcommittee. “This committee has prioritized making sure schools have access to the most advanced school security and infrastructure equipment available.”
“School counselors are vital to reducing conflict in our schools and guiding students through emotional and behavioral challenges,” said Steve Landes, R–Augusta, chairman of the Student Behavior and Intervention Subcommittee. “School counselors all across the state told us that too often they are required to do so many administrative tasks that they are spending less than half of their time actually counseling students. We need to make sure counselors are actually able to counsel like they were trained to do, putting the emphasis back on providing student services.”
“When is comes to identifying and preventing a threat, school systems must work hand-in-hand with their local law enforcement,” said Chris Peace, R–Hanover, chairman of the Prevention and Response subcommittee. “While response to a violent situation is very important, the best outcome is to prevent or stop a threat from taking place inside of a school in the first place. Schools working in partnership with their local law enforcement and emergency services agencies can go a long way to doing just that.”
The following recommendations have already been introduced as legislation for the 2019 General Assembly session.
•Requires the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety to develop a case management tool for use by public elementary and secondary school threat assessment teams and requires such threat assessment teams to use such tool to collect and report to the Center quantitative data on its activities. (Del. Marshall)
•Requires each school counselor employed by a school board in a public elementary or secondary school to spend at least 80 percent of his staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students. (Del. Landes)
•Requires the school board in each school division in which the local law-enforcement agency employs school resource officers to enter into a memorandum of understanding with such local law-enforcement agency that sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officers. The bill requires each such school board and local law-enforcement agency to review and amend or affirm the memorandum at least once every five years. (Del. Gilbert)
•Requires each public elementary and secondary school principal to develop and deliver to each student and employee in the school at least once annually training on safety procedures in the event of an emergency situation on school property. (Del. O’Quinn)
•Establishes the Commission on Student Behavioral Health as a legislative branch commission. ( Rep. Robinson)
•Changes the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. The bill also changes candidate filing deadlines to reflect the change of date. (Del. Landes)
•Requires each school board to include the chief law-enforcement officer, the fire chief, the chief of the emergency medical services agency, and the emergency management official of the locality, or their designees, in the development and review of
•Requires the licensed architect or professional engineer who provides the required statement to accompany the school superintendent’s approval on all plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school building construction to be trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design. (Del. Rush)
•Requires each school board, in consultation with the local building official and local fire marshal, to develop a procurement plan to ensure that all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code and Statewide Fire Prevention Code. (Del. Knight)