Northern Virginia superintendents urge Congress to pass gun legislation

The superintendents of several Northern Virginia school districts this week joined national education groups in a letter urging Congress to pass legislation to curb gun violence.

In a letter with 17 other groups, the leaders of Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, Fauquier County, Loudoun County and Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax City schools said they urge Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that would expand background checks for all gun buyers and prevent access to “dangerous weapons by those deemed at risk of hurting themselves or others.”

The plea comes weeks after a gunman entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers. School systems across the D.C. region spent the final weeks before summer break detailing security protocols and evaluating procedures.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators agreed to a framework for a gun agreement. It would mark the first time buyers under 21 would be subject to background checks.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced his support for the proposed policy this week, paving the way for a potential path forward on an issue that has kept Congress deadlocked for three decades.

“What happens every time one of these [school shootings] happens is, ‘For the grace of God go I,'” Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand said.

“This could be me, this can be my school, my community, and this is every teacher, every principal and every superintendent, let alone, of course, every parent’s worst nightmare. And this nightmare doesn’t have to happen. It can be eliminated through common sense gun reform.”

Schoolbooks and broken pencils on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
(Click to enlarge.) Laid out near the U.S. Capitol on June 10, 2022 were 2,280 schoolbooks and broken pencils that represent the 2,280 children that have been killed by gun violence. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In addition to pushing for action on gun violence prevention, the school leaders urged Congress to support kids’ mental health by ensuring schools have access to mental health personnel and expanding access to “Medicaid-reimbursable mental and behavioral health services in schools.”

“Schools and educators alone cannot bear the full burden of addressing the public health crisis of gun violence,” the letter said.

Several national groups, including the National Parent Teacher Association, American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of School Administrators, signed the letter as well.

School systems across the region have recently discussed safety upgrades, with the school board in Fairfax County pushing the superintendent to complete a project that would upgrade entrances at schools that haven’t had vestibules added. County officials in Arlington are discussing doing the same.

Brabrand, the Fairfax County superintendent, said the county has annual safety training and upgraded door locks and increased cameras in middle and high schools too.

And in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest school system, county leadership held a news conference on June 1 to discuss school safety. Superintendent Monifa McKnight said all exterior doors should be locked during the day, and almost every school has a vestibule.

Brabrand, meanwhile, said the group collaborated on the letter to “send a signal to our communities” and urge Congress to take action.

“Uvalde, Texas, was another gut punch,” Brabrand said. “This is every superintendent’s worst nightmare, and it’s time for the nightmare to end.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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