Prior to the beginning of session, the House Select Committee on School Safety and Governor Northam’s Workgroup on Student Safety reviewed the state of student safety in Virginia’s schools and made their respective recommendations here and here. Multiple pieces of legislation were filed in line with these recommendations.
The following is a list of some of the most impactful bills:
- HB 1729 (Landes) 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. This increases the amount of time school counselors currently are required to spend in direct counseling and may require local school divisions to employ additional staff to cover duties previously assumed by school counselors. VACo has expressed concerns about local fiscal impact. The bill advanced through both the House and Senate unanimously and awaits action by the Governor.
- HB 2053 (McQuinn) / SB 1406 (Dance) originally required school boards to employ school counselors in accordance with a series of decreasing ratios with the ultimate goal that by the 2021-2022 school year, the ratio will be one full-time school counselor for every 250 students at each level of elementary, middle, and high school. Both bills have been amended to stipulate counselor to student ratios of 375:1 at the elementary school level, 325:1 at the middle school level, and 300:1 at the high school level. The House version of the bill also contains several enactment clauses tying the final ratio of counselors to available funding in the state budget. Though reducing the ratio of school counselors in the Standards of Quality will increase state direct aid to education and the Governor has accounted for this in his budget proposals, local matching funds will still be required if these bills are enacted in school divisions that have existing staffing ratios higher than those stipulated.
- HB 1615 (Landes) would have changed the date of the June primary election from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June, as well as amending candidate filing deadlines. The bill was defeated in the Senate on a vote of 11-28 on February 15.
- HB 1752 (Krizek) would have made the November election day a public student holiday. The bill was passed by indefinitely by Senate Education and Health on a vote of 11-4 on February 14.
- HB 1725 (Knight) requires each school board, in consultation with the local building official and the state or 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. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and awaits action by the Governor.
- HB 1732 (O’Quinn) / SB 1215 (Newman) require 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. The Virginia Board of Education is required to develop guidelines for the development and delivery of this training. The bills passed the House and Senate unanimously, and the Senate version was approved by the by the Governor on February 19.
- HB 1733 (Gilbert) 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 (MOU) 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 or at any time upon request of either party. The bill has been sent to Conference Committee.
- HB 1738 (Rush) requires the architect or engineer who provides the required statement to accompany a local school superintendent’s approval on all plans for new or remodeled public-school building construction to be trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and awaits action by the Governor.
- SB 1213 (Newman) 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 require such threat assessment teams to use such tool to collect and report to the Center quantitative data on its activities. The Governor’s introduced budget includes approximately $700,000 to develop this tool and support a full-time staff position responsible for providing training. The bill passed the Senate and House unanimously and was approved by the by the Governor on February 19.
VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett