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Governor McDonnell Assembles School Safety Task Force

Members tasked with reviewing, making recommendations about safety in Virginia schools.

A state task force designed to review school safety procedures and make recommendations for any improvements at Virginia's schools -- created in the wake of the December shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. -- is set to begin next week, after Gov. Bob McDonnell named 45 people to the group Wednesday.

Shortly after the shootings, which left 26 students and educators dead, Gov. Bob McDonnell issued Executive Order 56 establishing a multidisciplinary task force to review school and campus safety.

In addition to several state legislators, law enforcement officials and mental health and safety experts, the task force also includes k through 12 and university-level educators and administrators, two students and the father of a victim in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

“I am thankful that this dedicated group of leaders and experts has agreed to work on the important issue of keeping our schools safe," McDonnell said Wednesday in a news release.

  The group will review school safety, including:

  • established policies and procedures
  • crisis and emergency management plans
  • threat assessment protocols
  • sharing best practices 
  • identifying resource challenges

The group is also tasked with providing legislative and budget proposals to the governor to address gaps or needs associated with safety and security at schools and campuses, according to the governor's news release.

The task force is expected to send initial recommendations to the governor no later than Jan. 31. It will continue to make recommendations on an ongoing basis and provide a final report on all aspects of the executive order to the governor no later than June 30, so recommended actions can be implemented before the new school year begins.

"As a Commonwealth, we must evaluate safety in our schools and ensure that we are providing our young people with the best opportunity to learn," he said. "I am confident this group will develop thoughtful recommendations that will ensure a safe learning environment for our students.”

Guns in schools and school safety are expected to be among the most heated topics in this year's Virginia General Assembly, which began as the governor's announcement was released Wednesday.

Twenty-one bills on gun control were filed by Virginia House and Senate members this session; nine of them are already dead.

One of the bills to take the spotlight so far: A proposal from Prince William County's Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-13th) to arm school personnel, requiring every school board in the state to "designate at least one qualified person for every school in the district who, upon application with the school board, may carry a concealed handgun on school property."

The bill does not limit school boards to a single designee, but all those appointed to carry guns — school division employees, volunteers, or retired law-enforcement officers — would have to be trained and certified by the Virginia Center for School Safety or the National Rifle Association,according to the bill.

In Fairfax County, one teachers union has launched its own survey on school safety to solicit opinions of classroom educators.  It closes Jan. 16.

Keith Best January 14, 2013 at 05:51 PM
God forbid a school bus driver wants to kill himself and drives over a cliff with a busload of kids. Should we ban the school bus?
Frederick C. Cassiday January 14, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Gun manufacturers abducted the NRA back in 1977 and that is a fact. As to logic, how in the world is there any logic in 30,000 gun deaths a year. Statistics don't lie. The more guns available, the more gun deaths. Don't let the paranoia pitch of the NRA dupe you into thinking you need a gun to protect yourself from the government. As to the bus driver, he goes thru a lot more background checks and requirements than anyone buying a gun.
John Strother January 22, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I just can't seem to grasp all the above comments. Here in the Washington DC area, we have not had a school shooting. Seems the system we have now is working. Why fix something that isn't broke? 30,000 deaths by guns, where? Not in Fairfax County, Not in Virginia alone. You must mean nation wide. With how many Millions of people, what percent of the populace is that 30,000? Less than 1 %? I think drunks kill just as many behind the wheel of a car.
Frederick C. Cassiday January 23, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Think the kids going to Anacostia don't get shot. Oh, that's right, that's them and this is us. Typical myopia to view the world in suburban terms until a Newtown Ct. happens right here. My view of the NRA leadership is that they do not represent me as a Life Member of the NRA, when they call for more guns in schools. Ever seen a firefight? Imagine one going on while screaming children are running for their lives. Only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun? I still say, don't have so many uncontrolled firearms in the hands of people that have no business having them. The NRA talks out of both sides of their mouth when they say existing laws are enough, while behind the scenes they are stifling the ATF and gun dealer checks at every opportunity. They represent the gun manufacturers, not the citizens that are members.
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