Virginia’s Select Committee on School Safety Finalized Specific Recommendations to General Assembly

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By Brandon Jarvis

Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights) announced today that the Select Committee on School Safety finalized their report and recommendations. The recommendations from the committee include proposals to realign the role of school counselors, develop a statewide mental health and suicide prevention tip line application, increasing funding for School Resource Officers, increasing funding for school security grants, and creating a Commission on Student Mental Health to continue to study a number of important topics considered by the committee.

The committee recommends that the General Assembly should realign the roles and responsibilities of school counselors to ensure that school counselors are spending the majority of their time providing direct student services, including emotional, behavioral, career, and life counseling and guidance. They continued to say that the General Assembly should fund new school-based staff positions (e.g., testing coordinator) to relieve school counselors of additional administrative duties and ensure they have sufficient time to provide counseling services.

The committee recommended that the GA should implement a statewide mental health and suicide prevention tip line that is similar to SafeUT. The SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program – right from your smartphone. The committee says this will help students gain access to receive real-time crisis-intervention counseling and report threats of violence.

In regards to increasing funding for School Resource Officers, the committee recommends prioritizing increasing funding for the School Resource Officer Grants Program to fund 44 new SRO positions – saying this would reduce the current unfunded demand by half.

The committee continued to say that the GA should require all school divisions that receive funding through the School Resource Officer Grants Program to enter into an MOU with local law enforcement that outlines the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the School Resource Officer, the school division, and the law enforcement agency.

The committee also recommended that the GA amend the Code of Virginia to allow retired law enforcement officers to be hired as School Resource Officers or School Security Officers without affecting their retirement benefits.

“When I formed the Select Committee on School Safety I promised that our final product would be comprehensive and consensus-driven,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Chairman of the Select Committee.  “I am confident we have accomplished this goal.”

“I am grateful to the members of the Select Committee who have worked diligently to come up with proposals that will further ensure the safety of our students while in the classroom,” said Danny Marshall (R-Danville), Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to turn these priority recommendations into bills for the 2019 General Assembly Session.”

You can read the rest of the specific recommendations from the committee here. 

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