Virginia is a National Leader in School Safety, But There's Still Room for Improvement

Jul 11, 2018

 

State lawmakers get a security tour of Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield County.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne / RADIOIQ

 

Although Virginia has taken school safety seriously, there’s still room for improvement. That’s what members of the Select Committee on School Safety, formed after the school shooting in Parkland Florida, heard today when they met for the second time.


According to school climate surveys, about 80-percent of Virginia students feel safe at school. And Virginia has been cited as a national leader in identifying possible violence through threat assessments.

Still, the state could implement increased mental health training for school resource officers, and turn to an outside party for random safety audits. Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox chairs the school safety committee.

“There’s no silver bullet. We’d all like to say ‘Boy if we just do this it will take care of the problem.’ But that’s not going to happen,” Cox said. “That means we’ve got to work harder and harder to find the small things to make sure we fill those gaps.”

Some of those gaps might be resources and training for teachers and school counselors. One possible gap the committee will not be addressing is gun reform.

Ahead of the meeting some Democratic lawmakers had a message: to broaden that focus. Delegate Mike Mullin represents Newport News. He says he’s heard from a number of students concerned about school shootings.

“But they were also really worried about mental health concerns. They were worried about things like suicide and depression. They were worried about rampant bullying. And those things are all intertwined. And we have to make sure that we’re addressing it in a holistic fashion,” said Mullin.

The full bipartisan committee also heard a report from the Chesterfield County School Safety task force, and they got a safety tour of an area high school.

 This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.