Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Locals appointed to gov’s school task force
Gov. Bob McDonnell today announced the members of the new Task Force of School and Campus Safety he promised to form in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Connecticut, to look for any gaps in Virginia schools’ security.
The task force, which is set to have its first meeting Monday, includes three Fredericksburg-area legislators: Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford; Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Kinsale; and Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa.
Other locals on the task force are Louisa County school superintendent Deborah Pettit and Capt. Steve Carey of the Stafford County sheriff’s department, a former school resource officer.
The task force members also include the state secretaries of public safety, education and health and human resources; Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; and the leaders of various state agencies on public safety, criminal justice, mental health and education issues.
“As a Commonwealth, we must evaluate safety in our schools and ensure that we are providing our young people with the best opportunity to learn,” McDonnell said in a press release. “I am confident this group will develop thoughtful recommendations that will ensure a safe learning environment for our students.”
The group is to review school safety policies and procedures, and identify areas where schools need better practices or more resources to enhance security.
The task force will propose legislative and budget proposals if necessary, and provide its initial recommendations by the end of this month, with a final report by mid-summer.
Stuart said he has some ideas of where the task force’s focus — and the state’s focus — should be.
“As much as people want to make this a discussion about guns, we have got to deal with the mental health laws of Virginia,” he said.
Stuart has also introduced a bill in the General Assembly to assign an armed, uniformed school resource officer to each school, and plans to submit a budget amendment to have the state pay for it.
Stuart said he “would be very concerned” with the idea — floated by some — of arming teachers. But, he said, school resource officers, who are law enforcement officers, would be a good addition in schools that don’t already have them.