A state legislative committee on school safety, formed in response to the shooting at a Florida high school, is getting to work. They’ll be taking a look at school security and mental health issues, but not gun control.
The Select Committee on School Safety met for the first time in Richmond Thursday.
Many members of the committee have already done security tours of schools in their district. Delegate Israel O’Quinn has visited 17 schools in southwest Virginia.
“Every single school that we went to has a problem with people propping open convenience doors so that they can get out to that back parking lot, and is that just one of many examples that we came across,” said O’Quinn.
Delegate Charniele Herring says she was pleased to hear that law enforcement in her area monitor Facebook for possible threats.
Delegate Jeff Bourne, a former school board member, wants to make sure that the committee thinks broadly by focusing on mental health and counseling.
“Rather than focusing solely on hardening the infrastructure, making sure that we have buzzers and that we close doors, and all those things that we need to do,” Bourne said. “I would also ask us to broaden our look.”
That was a sentiment echoed by many members of the committee, both Republicans and Democrats.
Speaking after the meeting was over, Speaker of House Kirk Cox agreed.
“It’s more than just infrastructure," Cox said. "You know having taught for 30 years...one of the things we did on purpose, one of the subcommittees is going to focus on students’ mental health, those issues we heard a lot at the end of the meeting, they’re very important,” said Cox.
This isn’t the first time state lawmakers have responded to a school shooting with a task force. After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, a similar work group led to new laws requiring lockdown drills, safety audits of schools, and funding for mental health training for teachers.
The 22 member committee will meet again in June. Agendas and a space to leave public comment is available on their website.