House OK’s some school safety measures

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By Brandon Jarvis

The House of Delegates passed a block of bills today in relation to school safety that were a result of the School Safety Committee. Speaker Cox, a former teacher, put the committee together last year looking to find some legislation that both sides could agree to pass. The goal was to make schools a safer environment for students and staff.

 

The committee was chaired by Speaker Cox, who directed the committee to stay away from guns – noting that the entire conversation would surround that topic if addressed.

 

“I am proud of this body for taking the issue of school safety seriously, and with the passage of these five pieces of legislation we are showing our students, teachers, and parents that we will do everything necessary to protect our schools,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights).

 

“These bills, particularly the ones for Memorandums of Understanding and Counselors time, are a good first step. The number one thing we could do, however, to instantly impact safety and academic achievement is pass the Governors budget proposal to work towards a counselor ratio of 1:250. This would ensure that students academic, mental, and behavioral health needs are met, SROs can focus on safety and the move towards 80/20 would be effective as counselors would have lower caseloads.” said Del. VanValkenburg (D – Henrico.

 

VanValkenburg is a current teacher in Henrico Country and he was a member of the school safety committee. The Democrats from the committee released a minority report after the committees work was done.

 
Recommendations that the Democrats highlighted in the minority report would increase funding to school counselors and introduce legislation for proactive gun control by working to “ensure troubled students do not have ready access to dangerous firearms.”
 

A list of the bills that passed the House floor today is below:

 

  • HB 1725, which would require local officials to have a plan that all security enhancements in school buildings comply with building and fire codes.

  • HB 1729, requiring school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time “in direct counseling,” rather than in administrative tasks.

  • HB 1732, to require elementary and secondary schools to host at least one general emergency drill a year along with standard fire, tornado and earthquake drills.

  • HB 1733, which would ensure that school resource officers understand their roles on school grounds as defined by the local law enforcement agency.

  • HB 1738, which says that an architect trained in crime prevention must approve any school building or renovation plans, focusing on “corridors, open spaces and floor plans through the lens of school safety.”

Now that the bills have passed the House, the Senate will take them up for consideration. If the Senate passes the measures, they will go to the Governor’s desk for him to sign them into law.

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