After the Parkland school shooting in March, Speaker Kirk Cox announced the creation of the House Select Committee on School Safety, the first to be established in the Virginia House of Delegates in the past 150 years. The Committee will review current policies on school security and propose recommendations for the 2019 session.
At the inaugural meeting, the Speaker discussed the selection of Committee members as those with experience in local government, school boards, and justice systems to develop an effective, consensus-driven process for developing recommendations for the 2019 General Assembly Session. Vice-Chairman Marshall will serve as an Ex-Officio member of each subcommittee. The Committee includes the three subcommittees below:
Infrastructure and Security
Rush (Chairman), Jones, S.C., Knight, Marshall, Torian, Heretick, Bourne
Prevention and Response Protocol
Peace (Chairman), Wright, Bell, R.B., O’Quinn, Sickles, Krizek, Mullin, Marshall
Student Behavior and Intervention
Landes (Chairman), Marshall, Gilbert, Bell, R.B., Robinson, Watts, Toscano, Herring, VanValkenburg
The Speaker also launched the Committee’s website during the meeting, which is a portal for public comment. The link to the website is located here.
After the Columbine shooting in 1999, the Virginia Center for School Safety was established in § 9.1-184 of the Code of Virginia. Housed in the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Center provides training for K-12 school personnel, serves as a resource and referral center for school divisions, facilitates the school safety audit process, and encourages development of partnerships to increase school safety across the state. In addition, the Commonwealth has a robust School Resource Officer (SRO) program and Threat Assessment system. The SRO program is funded through a state $1.3 million grant, capped at $50,000 per SRO, and the Center reports and data collection are funded through partnerships with higher education institutions like the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech with the National Institute of Justice. The grant helps fund 43 SROs and one School Security Officer, which are based on the Local Composite Index. In total, there are 584 SROs. The Committee discussed the need for increased funding for both programs. The DCJS presentation can be found here.
Governor McDonnell established his School and Campus Safety Task Force in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting. The Task Force included members of law enforcement, school personnel, first responders, parents and students, K-12 and higher education employees, public and private school representatives, and scholars and experts. The Task Force had three work groups focused on education, mental health, and public safety. Sixty-one recommendations came from the Task Force, with a total of 34 recommendation implemented in full or in part. Most of the school design and construction-related recommendations were not implemented, but suggested to localities. An overview of the recommendations can be found here.
The full Committee will meet again in June to hear a presentation from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on how other states are addressing school safety.
VACo Contact: Khaki LaRiviere