On Thursday, a group of 22 delegates gathered in Richmond to take a closer look at school safety.
They were all tapped to be part of the House ‘Select Committee on School Safety.’
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) formed the group in response to the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February.
The committee, which is made up of Republicans and Democrats, has been charged with reviewing what safety measures are currently in place in the Commonwealth while also coming up with suggestions to propose for the 2019 General Assembly session.
“School safety is a very complex and multi-faceted issue,” said Cox. “It is our responsibility to ensure our schools are safe and that students can learn free from fear of violence.”
Thursday’s meeting was mostly an overview of what the group will be working on over the next several months. Members received their subcommittee assignments.
The three subcommittees are: School Infrastructure & Security, Student Behavior & Engagement and Prevention & Response Protocol.
They also heard two presentations. The first was a recap of 61 recommendations made a few years ago by a similar group. That one was formed by former Gov. Bob McDonnell after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
The second presentation was a summary of current laws in Virginia and how they relate to school safety.
To prepare for their work on the committee, lawmakers have been visiting schools across the commonwealth. They have been taking notes on what’s working and what needs to be strengthened.
Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Washington) said he’s seen a consistent issue.
“Every single school that we went to has a problem with people propping open convenience doors so that they can get out to that back parking lot,” he said. “And that’s just one of many examples that we certainly came across.”
Cox made it clear the committee will not discuss issues related to guns or broader behavioral health policy that’s being considered by other commissions or standing committees.
While this group’s major focus will be on things like security and emergency preparedness, some delegates expressed hope that their scope of work will also include things like targeting bullying.
“That seems to be a very large cause of concern for so many students,” Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News).
The committee is also soliciting feedback from the public. To submit a comment or learn more about the committee, click HERE.
The group is expected to meet three to four more times.
The committee aims to complete its work by Nov. 15 and produce a final report containing recommendations by Dec. 15.