In the wake of Friday's school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced a state plan to review school safety in Virginia at all levels.
McDonnell said Monday he plans to identify statewide and locality, school division, college and university resource needs to "ensure that we are doing everything humanly possible to keep our children, young people and educators safe while they are in the classroom."
"Just as public safety is the bedrock responsibility of government, the safety of our young people must continue to be the top priority in our schools and our campuses," McDonnell said in a satement.
In Fairfax County, there are regular safety and lockdown drills, and there was increased security at all schools Monday.
The governor has asked Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker to review recently submitted school safety audits with school superintendents and to identify any changes in procedures or additional resources needed in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
The governor also announced the establishment of a task force comprised of leading educators, public safety experts, local leaders and legislators to review school safety, including established policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans, threat assessment protocols, as well as to share best practices and identify resource challenges.
This task force will also provide legislative and budget guidance to the governor to address any critical gaps or needs associated with safety and security in our schools and on our campuses, McDonnell said.
The governor also announced the creation of a position within the Department of Criminal Justice Services dedicated to issues associated with school and campus safety. This School and Campus Safety Coordinator position originated as a recommendation from the Governor's Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board and will be funded using existing resources, McDonnell said.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy, and to the teachers, first responders, and all others touched by the events of last Friday," Gov. McDonnell said . "Unfortunately, Virginians have our own painful memories of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Those memories will never fade, and our mourning of those losses continues."
"As a father, I cannot imagine the grief experienced by those in Newtown, Connecticut, as they mourn the loss of their innocent children. ... As a sibling of a career teacher, the recollections of the heroism demonstrated by Sandy Hook Elementary School educators are a stark reminder to me that school personnel must be given all possible training, tools and resources to protect the children in their care."
An executive order providing more details about the task force, its mission and its membership will be issued later this week. The goal is to identify any needed funding or legislative changes that could be brought before the General Assembly before its veto session in March.