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VA Governor Orders School Safety Review

In wake of Newtown shooting, Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to look at all resources to keep campuses from kindergarten through college safe.

In the wake of Friday's school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has announced a state plan to review school safety in Virginia at all levels.

McDonnell said Monday he plans to identify statewide and locality, school division, college and university resource needs to "ensure that we are doing everything humanly possible to keep our children, young people and educators safe while they are in the classroom."

 "Just as public safety is the bedrock responsibility of government, the safety of our young people must continue to be the top priority in our schools and our campuses," McDonnell said in a satement.

In Fairfax County, there are regular safety and lockdown drills, and there was increased security at all schools Monday.

The governor has asked Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker to review recently submitted school safety audits with school superintendents and to identify any changes in procedures or additional resources needed in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

The governor also announced the establishment of a task force comprised of leading educators, public safety experts, local leaders and legislators to review school safety, including established policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans, threat assessment protocols, as well as to share best practices and identify resource challenges.

This task force will also provide legislative and budget guidance to the governor to address any critical gaps or needs associated with safety and security in our schools and on our campuses, McDonnell said.

The governor also announced the creation of a position within the Department of Criminal Justice Services dedicated to issues associated with school and campus safety. This School and Campus Safety Coordinator position originated as a recommendation from the Governor's Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board and will be funded using existing resources, McDonnell said.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy, and to the teachers, first responders, and all others touched by the events of last Friday," Gov. McDonnell said . "Unfortunately, Virginians have our own painful memories of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Those memories will never fade, and our mourning of those losses continues."

"As a father, I cannot imagine the grief experienced by those in Newtown, Connecticut, as they mourn the loss of their innocent children. ... As a sibling of a career teacher, the recollections of the heroism demonstrated by Sandy Hook Elementary School educators are a stark reminder to me that school personnel must be given all possible training, tools and resources to protect the children in their care."

An executive order providing more details about the task force, its mission and its membership will be issued later this week. The goal is to identify any needed funding or legislative changes that could be brought before the General Assembly before its veto session in March.

JD December 19, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Bulletproof glass in all schools would be a start. Supposedly this is how the shooter bypassed all the locked doors I believe. No one needs a semiautomatic rifle to protect his or her familiy from home invaders or to hunt. These rifles used in mass killings are assault- offensive weapons designed to kill as many people in the quickest time possible. They were designed for war! We have the largest # of guns circulating in the US then any other country in the world. When we can walk into a Walmart and buy these weapons easier than renting a car, our government is irresponsible. Then these horrendous weapons easily get into the hands of the mentally ill who act on their worst impulses. Was Newtown really any surprise to anyone in this country? Easy access to assault weapons + mental illness = murder of the innocent. No one in this country except law enforcement needs to own a semi automatic rifle.
JD December 19, 2012 at 08:27 PM
And don't even get me started on access to mental health care providers. Its basically impossible to get timely help for treatment for the mentally ill even if one is insured. There are also too few qualified mental health clinicians. Its a tough job, pay is poor . Most providers won't contract with insurance (because they won't reimburse or what they do is a fraction of the fee), insist you pay up front an good luck getting reimbursed when you file a claim with your own insurance. Many, many of the patients I cared for as an RN in either the ER or public health clinic were suffering from mental health issues and there was no where to send them for followup. This tragedy resulted from many failures in our society, poor gun control, lousy access to mental health care, the medias constant coverage which immortalizes the shooter so his name is known everywhere which is part of the shooters motivation, right to be remembered in death since he was ignored in life?
JD December 19, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Where are lessons in our schools regarding moral, ethical and compassionate behavior toward one another? Seems there is a familiar personality profile of these shooters being on the outskirts of any social group in school, reclusive, quiet and never expressing any violent tendencies and yet... Does anyone, peers or staff attempt to reach these isolated kids or are we even aware of them? Where is the community involvement and support for these "at risk" kids? Why not make World Religions a requirement in public schools? Whether one believes in God or not is irrelevant to study the worlds most influential religions. It would at least be a conduit for students to explore and discuss their own spiritual and moral beliefs without promoting any one religion even if a student is an atheist. My older son took it as an elective in his fcps highschool. They visited mosques, synagogues, churches and had fascinating guest speakers. He said the class discussions were amazing, students shared alot of their personal insights regarding their religious or non religious upbringing. Much emphasis was placed on the common teachings of most religions which are love and respect for your fellow human beings, service to others in your life's work, and its learning that its NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. That last part comes as a relief to most teens once they hear it enough.
JD December 19, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Arming teachers is not the answer but perhaps for now armed security guards, locked doors and bulletproof glass is. Then we have to deal with all the factors that are contributing to our increasingly violent culture.

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