State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are coming together to discuss school safety.
On Thursday, March 8, a “select committee” of almost two dozen elected officials announced that it will begin work as soon as possible on trying to better protect schools. The speaker of the state House of Delegates issued a two-page letter that outlines what the group hopes to accomplish.
The group includes delegates David Toscano, Rob Bell, and Steve Landes who all represent the central Virginia area.
The 22 members will get to work no later than May 1, and they’ll look at strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, and providing additional behavioral health resources for students. Committee members will also look at deploying additional security personnel at schools.
David Toscano, who represents the 57th District, spoke on the House floor about it on Thursday morning.
"We'll take a data-centered approach to come up with solutions,” says Toscano. “I applaud the efforts to create a gun safety select committee, but I hope we will go farther and think about other ways we can make the public safe from gun violence as well."
This move to create this committee comes after the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The incident occurred nearly a month ago, but some schools in central Virginia have experienced similar scares on a smaller scale. Because of that, many school administrators are looking for methods to better protect their students.
"You hope that nothing happens, but you want to be prepared if something does," says Lindsay Snoddy, the assistant director of Albemarle's business services.
The committee is slated to have about four meetings in Richmond, with a final report ready by December 15 in advance of the next general assembly session.
However, safety improvements will also come with a financial cost and state lawmakers are going to need to figure out how they're going to pay for them.
"Some of these improvements are very costly and when you multiply it across our 25 school locations, the dollars do add up even for small things like a door lock," says Snoddy.
Toscano says that when addressing school safety concerns, it's important for the general assembly to address guns specifically.
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