RICHMOND, Va. — Five pieces of legislation that resulted from 24 priority recommendations from the Select Committee on School Safety passed the Virginia House of Delegates, Tuesday. They will now head to the Senate.
The committee, which was created after the Parkland Florida shooting that killed 17 people, released the priority legislation in December.
“I am proud of this body for taking the issue of school safety seriously, and with the passage of these five pieces of legislation we are showing our students, teachers, and parents that we will do everything necessary to protect our schools,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R), 66th District.
The five bills that passed are as follows:
- HB1725: Public school building security enhancements; compliance with Uniform Statewide Building Code, etc. This bill would require each school board, in consultation with the local building official and local fire marshal, to develop a procurement plan to ensure that all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code and Statewide Fire Prevention Code.
- HB1729: School counselors; staff time. This bill requires each school counselor employed by a school board in a public elementary or secondary school to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students.
- HB1732: School safety procedures; emergency situations, annual training. This bill requires each public elementary and secondary school to conduct at least one general safety/emergency training or drill for students per year. Schools already conduct fire, tornado, and earthquake drills.
- HB1733: School boards; local law-enforcement agencies, memorandums of understanding. The bill requires the school board in each school division in which the local law-enforcement agency employs school resource officers to enter into a memorandum of understanding with such local law-enforcement agency that sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officers.
- HB1738: School buildings; plans to be reviewed by a professional trained & experienced in crime prevention. The bill requires a licensed architect who is trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design to approve plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school building construction.
Delegate Barry Knight (R), 81st District, sponsored HB 1725, which would develop a plan to ensure all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with state building and fire codes.
"We've had a few school shootings which are absolutely tragic," said Knight. "So we decided to see what we can do to be proactive within the state of Virginia and what we ultimately wanted to do was the safety of the students."
Virginia Beach parent of three Kristen Sivills said she wished the Select Committee on School Safety did more to address gun control.
"Of course I want to see more. I think it's a step in the right direction," said Sivills. "I'm scared because of the things happening now to kids and it seems like it's getting worse and there's no telling what will happen by the time they get to school."
The committee studied current school safety policies and procedures in Virginia, and they made recommendations for the General Assembly to improve them.