The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed five pieces of legislation that were the direct results of the 24 priority recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety, formed by Speaker Cox during the 2018 Session.
“I am proud of this body for taking the issue of school safety seriously, and with the passage of these five pieces of legislation we are showing our students, teachers, and parents that we will do everything necessary to protect our schools,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights).
HB1729 requires each public school counselor to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students. Currently, school counselors are overburdened with administrative tasks that limit the amount of time they can spend providing direct student services.
“We must always ensure students have access to the counseling they need,” said Delegate Steve Landes (R – Augusta), the patron of HB1729. “School counselors told my subcommittee over and over again they are too often being tasked with administrative responsibilities, such as coordinating testing, which prevents them from actually providing counseling services to students. I am proud to be carrying HB 1729 to require counselors spend at least 80 percent of their time actually counseling students.”
HB1733 requires the school board in each school division in which the local law-enforcement agency employs school resource officers to enter into a memorandum of understanding with such local law-enforcement agency that sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officers. School Resource Officers are responsible for upholding the law, not school board policy; therefore, it is imperative localities clearly articulate and agree upon the role and responsibilities of School Resource Officers.
“Resource officers can be a first line of law enforcement defense, but are also vital when it comes to prevention,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert (R – Shenandoah), the patron of HB1733. “I am proud of the work we have done in past years to designate more money for school resource officers and it is important to ensure school administrators, resource officers, and parents all know the responsibilities of those charged with keeping our students safe.”
HB1738 requires a licensed architect who is trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design to approve plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school building construction. These architects look at corridors, open spaces, and floor plans through the lense of school safety to ensure learning environments are as safe as possible.
“We need to focus on security from before the school doors even open,” said Delegate Nick Rush (R – Montgomery), the patron of HB1738. “Security starts with the design of the school from the lay out, to office and classroom locations, to security enhancements. We need to be thinking safety from concept to completion of a school design.”
HB1725 requires each school board, in consultation with the local building official and local fire marshal, to develop a procurement plan to ensure that all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code and Statewide Fire Prevention Code.
“School security upgrades can be costly, so it’s absolutely critical schools are consulting with building and fire officials to ensure these new upgrades are compliant with Code,” said Delegate Barry Knight (R – Virginia Beach), the patron of HB 1725. “With schools across the state focusing on school upgrades with the safety of students in mind, we must make sure our tax dollars are being spent effectively the first time instead of going back after the fact to bring school improvements up to code.”
HB1732 requires each public elementary and secondary school to conduct at least one general safety/emergency training or drill for students per year.
“Schools already conduct fire, tornado, and earthquake drills,” said Delegate O’Quinn (R – Washington), the patron of HB1731. “The Committee identified the need for more general emergency preparedness training to ensure if any type of emergency were to happen everyone, including students, teachers, and staff, know how to respond.”
Click Here for the current status of nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that were a direct result of the 24 priority recommendations released by the committee in December.