Gov. McDonnell Introduces School Safety Legislation

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

February 8, 2013

Governor Bob McDonnell introduced eight pieces of legislation on Friday designed to make schools and campuses in Virginia safer.

The proposed legislation comes a week after the governor's task force on school and campus safety made their recommendations.

UVa professor and clinical psychologist, Dewey Cornell, serves on the governor's task force.

"I'm really pleased that the governor has adopted our recommendations to take a comprehensive approach, which is not just focused on what to do in the event of a crisis but really how to prevent acts of violence in our schools and keep our kids safe," said Cornell.

McDonnell filed eight school safety bills on Friday calling for more critical response training for staff, lock down drills, funding for security upgrades and more communication. That's something parents and teachers are hoping for.

"It helps to have students who know what to do based on teachers who can provide that instruction but you also need to have administrators who feel comfortable practicing the routines of what's expected," said parent and teacher Morrice Apprey of Albemarle County.

One proposal would implement threat assessment teams in each school. Professor Cornell has done countless research on this method and worked with local schools to develop guidelines for these teams.

"It gives schools an alternative to zero tolerance," he says. "Instead of automatically suspending a student. The team can look at the students behavior, evaluate how serious it is and then come up with a reasonable plan to keep everyone safe."

The task force is now moving on to part two of their work which is making additional recommendations about long term goals.

The main elements of the governor's agenda include:
Immunity from Civil Liability
Lockdown Drills
Juvenile Information Sharing
Critical Incident Response Model Curriculum
Funding for Facility and Security Upgrades
Threat Assessment Teams
Penalty for Straw Man Gun Purchases
Penalty for Entering A School Armed

These are just from the initial recommendations of the task force, they will continue to make additional recommendations and provide a final report to the governor by the end of June.

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