Is Virginia doing enough to make sure our schools are safe? That's the question a new committee of experts is tackling under the Governor's orders. Governor Bob McDonnell's School and Campus Safety Task Force held its very first meeting Monday.
Though this is the committee's first meeting, it must move quickly. McDonnell says he wants some specific recommendations by the end of the month, in hopes some changes can be made while the General Assembly is in full swing.
"Parents across the Commonwealth feel really strongly about being a part of the process," said Sarah Gross.
Gross isn't a lawmaker. She doesn't have a fancy title with the Governor's office. She's a parent and a PTS member who wants to make sure schools in the state are safe .
"[I'm] really struggling to understand how this kind of evil can exist in modern America," McDonnell said addressing his task force about the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Is there something we can do better? Are there more resources that should be applied?" he probed.
His committee is full of experts, ranging from school superintendents to legislators, even a student. All are examining critical issues surrounding education like mental health and public safety.
"This is a tremendous endeavor. It's very important and it's going to involve a lot of hard work and energy, said Public Safety Secretary Marla Decker.
She encouraged the group to be committed as the task force is charged with quickly coming up recommendations while the General Assembly is in session.
"If bad guys are breaking into schools with guns, if there someone that is armed, whether it's a teacher or another school resource officer that can defend those children, we ought to talk about it," McDonnell said.
He adds he will leave specific recommendations and a plan of action to his committee of experts, including gross, who is glad to have a seat at the table.
"We want to know that everything that can be done is being done," she said.
Another issue the governor wants addressed is whether the state is adequately reporting to state police the number of people who are obtaining guns illegally.
The committee will continue to meet throughout the year. McDonnell says there are $50 million in un-appropriated funds that he hopes to eventually earmark toward school safety.
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