Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox announced on Thursday the formation of the “House Select Committee on School Safety” to review state and local policy on school safety and make recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly during the 2019 Session. This is the first select committee formed in the House in 155 years. Select Committees are reserved for matters of considerable significance that cross the jurisdiction of conventional and established standing committees. Speaker Cox sent a letter to the Clerk of the House of Delegates on Thursday outlining the scope, membership and work plan of the Committee.
“The House of Delegates led the effort in recent years to make our schools safer, but the tragedy in Parkland, Florida shows us that we must be ever-vigilant when it comes to school safety. We are taking a bold and significant step today to make school safety a top priority of the House of Delegates,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “I am appointing the Select Committee on School Safety to comprehensively review state and local policies on school safety and make recommendations to the General Assembly for the 2019 session. The House has not formed a Select Committee in over 150 years, which speaks to the significance of this step.”
Cox added, “The scope of work for this committee is specifically limited to school safety. We will remain laser-focused on the specific areas laid out in my letter to the Clerk, and not allow more partisan issues to distract us from the important steps we must take to ensure that our children are safe in our public schools.”
In his letter to the Clerk, Cox specifically limited the committee’s scope of work to strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth. The committee will not discuss issues related to guns or broader behavioral health policy that are being considered by other commissions or standing committees. The committee also will not consider security at institutions of higher education, many of which already have rigorous security requirements and are governed by national accrediting agencies that set guidelines for their security.
“As I watched parents grieve over the loss of their children after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was struck by the parents who said our focus should not be on overly-broad gun control measures, but instead on the important work of keeping our children safe,” said Delegate Danny Marshall (R-Danville). Marshall will serve as Vice-Chairman of the Committee. “I am proud to be part of a productive conversation about securing our schools and look forward to beginning our work.”
“When we talk about improving our education system, we must start with the safety of our schools,” said House Education Chairman Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta).“This Select Committee has an important job ahead of them and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find practical solutions to ensure the safety of our children.”
“This Select Committee will allow us to identify problems and consider solutions that will truly make our children safer in schools,” said Courts of Justice Chairman Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle). “As people often find in the House Courts Committee, translating ideas into actual laws is hard work and words matter. I look forward to working with my colleagues.”
Speaker Cox will serve as Chairman of the Select Committee. Cox is appointing 11 other Republicans and 10 Democrats to provide the Select Committee with proportional representation in accordance with House rules. The members of the Select Committee will be: Kirk Cox, Steve Landes, Chris Jones, Tommy Wright, Rob Bell, Danny Marshall, Todd Gilbert, Chris Peace, Barry Knight, Roxann Robinson, Israel O’Quinn, Nick Rush, Vivian Watts, Mark Sickles, David Toscano, Charniele Herring, Luke Torian, Paul Krizek, Steve Heretick, Mike Mullin, Jeff Bourne, and Schuyler VanValkenburg.
The Committee will complete its work by November 15, 2018 and produce a final report containing recommendations no later than December 15, 2018.