The House Select Committee on School Safety reviewed an extensive list of potential recommendations from its three subcommittees on September 11 and agreed to work on further development of the proposals in advance of a final meeting in November. The subcommittees collectively proposed 58 recommendations (several of which were items proposed by more than one subcommittee). Speaker of the House and Select Committee Chair Kirk Cox explained that the initial list of recommendations reflected a desire to be inclusive of ideas and proposals presented to the subcommittees over the summer, and that the list will be refined and prioritized for final consideration in November. House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones requested that staff provide cost estimates for each proposal, as many of the potential recommendations could have significant state and local fiscal impacts.
Major proposals of interest to local governments
- Increase funding for the School Resource Officer Grants Program, which is currently funded at $1.3 million per year for the current biennium, with an additional $1.3 million in FY 2019 to meet demand.
- Increase funding for the School Security Equipment Grant program.
- Remove the cap on the number of support positions recognized in the Standards of Quality, which was put in place during the recession. VACo has historically advocated for the removal of this arbitrary cap on state cost-sharing for positions that provide essential services toward the functioning of a school system.
- Lower the ratio of school counselors to students to 1:250. Currently the ratio ranges from 1:350 to 1:500; reducing it would require additional state and local funding. A similar recommendation to reassign school counselors’ administrative duties and require that 80 percent of their staff time be devoted to direct student services would presumably also require additional funding for staff to assume the testing and career guidance duties currently performed by many school counselors.
- Include mental health counselors in the Standards of Quality. This proposal would require both state and local funding to implement.
- Recommend cooperative agreements between school boards and local departments of social services and community services boards (CSBs) to provide mental health services for children.
- Recommend collaboration between school board employees and local fire marshals to ensure that infrastructure improvements comply with the Statewide Fire Prevention Code.
- Allow retired law enforcement officers to serve as School Resource Officers without loss of retirement benefits.
- Amend the Virginia Juvenile Community Crime Control Act to expand the population of eligible juveniles who would qualify for services.
- Delay the June primary elections from the second to the third Tuesday in June so that elections would be held after the school year has concluded, as schools are frequently used as polling places. A related recommendation would require the November general election date to be a school holiday.
- Require threat assessment training for all school personnel; provide funding for training on de-escalation of student behavior; require mental health training for teachers; require training for School Resource Officers on mental health, interacting with students with disabilities, and bullying, among other topics; and require annual training for students on school safety procedures
- Recommend certain physical safety improvements, such as exploring the possibility of installing ballistic barriers in school buildings; integrating school security cameras with emergency communications centers; requiring a professional trained in Crime Prevention through Environmental Design to review each school capital project; and requiring public safety agencies to include local school divisions in the public safety voice communications system.
- Require certain minimum standards for physical and cybersecurity, similar to the way in which standards for staffing and accreditation are established by the General Assembly and Board of Education.
Below are links to recommendations from each subcommittee.
Infrastructure and Security Subcommittee
Prevention and Response Protocol Subcommittee
Student Behavior and Intervention Subcommittee
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle