New requirements aim to make schools safer
At a school outside of Richmond last week, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed 12 pieces of legislation designed to make Virginia’s schools and campuses safer.
“In response to the appalling and tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I issued Executive Order 56 on December 20th of last year in order to establish a multidisciplinary taskforce to comprehensively review school and campus safety in Virginia,” the governor said. “We have identified practical solutions to greater ensure the safety of those who attend, and those who serve on, Virginia schools and campuses.”
School Safety Legislation signed includes a law that defines “bullying” and requires each school board to include in its code of student conduct policies and procedures that prohibit bullying.
Legal code HB2343 creates a special fund to provide grants to localities, subject to local match, for facility upgrades in order to improve security.
New law requires school superintendents to establish
a violence prevention coma violence prevention committee and threat assessment team similar to those required for Virginia colleges. The legislation also requires school systems to annually collect and report quantitative data to the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
The Departments of Criminal Justice Services, Education, Behavioral Health and Development Services, and State Police must develop a model Critical Incident Response training program for school personnel and those providing services to schools.
Each school division will have to designate an emergency manager to coordinate school preparedness within the division and mandates that schools conduct a lockdown drill once each semester.
A new law expands current Virginia law by extending civil immunity to any person who reports in good faith, information that an individual poses credible danger of serious bodily injury or death to one or more students, school, personnel or others on school property.
“With this legislation, we are continuing to make it a priority to protect our children and those who have taken on the responsibility of caring for them. The legislation I am signing today will help make schools and campuses in Virginia safer and will provide for training and resources our educators, first responders, and mental health professionals need in order to provide the safest school environment possible,” the governor said.