Va. house panel gets to work on school safety issues

A number of parents said they feel like their concerns over school safety are being ignored. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

WASHINGTON — An intense look at ways to improve school safety is now underway in Virginia.

Twenty-two members of the House Select Committee on School Safety met for the first time on Thursday. They were divided into three subcommittees of specific focus: infrastructure and security, student behavior and intervention and prevention and response protocol.

website for the committee also launched on Thursday to allow members of the public to comment directly to subcommittee working groups, to see documents from expert testimony presentations and to keep up to date on meeting dates.

When the committee next meets in June, committee chair Republican M. Kirkland Cox, who represents Chesterfield and Colonial Heights, said it will hear a report on what some other states are doing on school safety.

One committee member admitted to his colleagues that he finds the task ahead of them daunting.

“I hope that as we do our work over the next few months and we talk with the experts and we begin to winnow down and identify the types of issues that we can meaningfully and validly address, that we will keep in mind that at the end of the day, this required an alliance,” said Del. Steve E. Heretick, a Democrat who represents Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Heretick said the alliance should involve not just members of the Virginia house, senate and the governor’s office, but “the schools and the parents and the teachers and everybody who basically makes up this wider community — this is a big, big job.”

Subcommittees are expected to submit full reports to the committee as a whole in September.

The plan is for the committee to conclude work by Nov. 5, to submit a final report no later than mid-December and to then make recommendations for the General Assembly to consider during the 2019 session.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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