Task Force on School, Campus Safety Makes First Recommendations

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

January 31, 2013

Virginia is moving forward with making schools and universities all across the state safer than ever by taking a broad approach to violence prevention.

The school and safety task force was created by Governor Bob McDonnell in light of the horrific and senseless massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

"The safety of our kids is first and foremost and I'm glad that people are taking the time to to take it seriously and be proactive," said Jennifer Graham, a mother and Albemarle County resident.

The task force met in Richmond on Thursday to discuss and vote on recommendations from public safety, mental health and education work groups.

One local parent and teacher looks to the future and hopes school administrations will handle any new plans the right way.

"It's always good to meet, but to meet and then not rehearse. A lot of times a lot of school systems will go ahead and put plans together but they don't actually follow through with the repetition of knowing what are the actual procedures," said Morrice Apprey, an Albemarle County resident.

Clinical psychologist and UVa professor Dewey Cornell serves on the task force and says the key to good prevention is taking a broad approach. Making sure to cover the small concerns before they escalate.

"The more we can be preventative and proactive before things happen the better," Graham agrees.

One recommendation is for an emergency manager to be placed in every school.

"I hope that if they do have school officials that will be put in that position, they may also say to them, you know what we know that teaching may be a priority for you however, we need to make this a priority as well," Apprey said, who worked in emergency management for several years.

Cornell says there is a violence problem not a school problem. Parents agree and say whatever comes out of the recommendation process, will help education as a whole.

"You never know when something will happen in your own neighborhood. If you don't have a safe environment, it's going to be hard to make sure people are comfortable enough to learn. So you need both," Apprey said.

Cornell says he's crossing his fingers and looks forward to the response from the legislature.

The task force will meet again to discuss additional recommendations and will have a final report for the governor no later than June 30th.

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