State lawmakers unveil priorities ahead of General Assembly to step up school security

State lawmakers unveil priorities ahead of General Assembly to step up school security

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In just a couple of months, state lawmakers will head to the Capitol to pitch new laws to keep your children safe at school.

Wednesday, a state committee wrapped up its recommendations that are now headed to local representatives. They include stepping up funding for school resource officers and creating a statewide mental health and suicide prevention hotline.

The tragedies we've seen playing out at the nation's schools have Virginia lawmakers preparing to act. Recently, all kinds of weapons have been found at schools in Central Virginia. Wednesday, school officials found a bullet in the bathroom of Atlee High in Hanover.

"You don’t know if it was someone pulling a prank or sending a message or someone in obvious need of some attention,” Delegate Chris Peace said.

He is on a House Committee studying what will make Virginia schools safer. Wednesday, the group finalized 24 suggestions, including more mental health support and extra funding for school resource officers.

"We want to make sure there is an appropriately trained person that can respond to school security issues at the school, and quite frankly not every school has SROs,” Peace added.

Lawmakers are also concerned with the task load of school counselors.

"We want counselors to be able to actually counsel children not just pushing paper,” Peace said.

The Chesterfield Education Association sent this statement:

The House Select Committee on School Safety provides a start to what is needed.  The focus on increased School Counselor positions is critical.  The need, however, would tie in with revising the Standards of Quality language as it relates to the number of students assigned to an individual School Counselor. School Psychologists are also a critical need, but in short supply.

The Richmond Education Association sent this statement:

“Our foremost priority as educators is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students. We all share a professional responsibility to create safe schools and communities. Our children and staff deserve no less.

"We have a lot of great schools, and they try to do a lot with a little many times,” Peace said.

That’s why the committee wants to up funding for school security grants - which local school districts would be able to apply for. The next step is for lawmakers to take this feedback and propose new laws when the General Assembly convenes.

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