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Va. School Officials: Student Safety Comes from Community, Not Guns

December 21, 2012

Education officials are responding to Governor McDonnell's suggestion that lawmakers should discuss allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom.

The Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP), the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals (VAESP) and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) released a statement welcoming an open dialog on improving safety.

These groups say that keeping students safe involves the support of the whole community. However, they do not see guns as a solution.

Ben Kiser, VASS President and Superintendent of Gloucester County Schools stated, “We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses.” He continued, “Effective prevention cannot wait until there is a gunman in a school parking lot; we need resources such as School Resource Officers, assistant principals, mental health supports and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help.”

The VASSP, VAESP and VASS claim previous budget cuts have affected a school's ability to help students. They cite cuts in staff, older buildings not being brought up to current regulations, and too few principals and assistant principals for Virginia schools.

Carolyn Bernard, past President of VASSP and principal of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake said, "Our children deserve better ... and with continuous cuts, existing staff are being forced to try to accomplish much more with less. It is becoming difficult to focus on developing relationships and encouraging engagement with students."

Delegates have recently called for increased funding for school resource officer programs, which can be read here; http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Va-Lawmakers-Propose-Expanding-School-Safety-184307111.html

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