Governor Bob McDonnell today awarded $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to improve safety and security for students and teachers in 459 Virginia schools and regional education programs. The grants will pay for security equipment, including video monitoring systems, metal detectors, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems and communications systems providing direct links between schools and law enforcement agencies.
The School Security Equipment Grant program was proposed by the governor in February and established by the General Assembly through the passage of the 2013 Appropriation Act and House Bill 2343, which was sponsored by Delegate Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Winchester.
The legislation directed the Virginia Public School Authority to issue bonds to fund up to $6 million in competitive grants statewide for the purchase and installation of school security equipment. School divisions and regional educational programs were invited in June to apply for grants of up to $100,000.
"I can think of no more important legislative accomplishment than this investment in the safety and security of our students, teachers, principals and other public school employees," Governor McDonnell said. "These grants, and the other important steps we've taken this year to improve school security, will make a real difference as we strive to make sure Virginia's schools remain places where children can learn in safety."
Additional state funding for school security was one of a series of recommendations made by the governor's Taskforce on School and Campus Safety. The governor created the blue-ribbon panel in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, that claimed the lives of 20 students, the school's principal, two teachers, two aides and a school psychologist.
"We were all deeply moved by the heroism of the educators at Sandy Hook who gave their lives trying to protect their students," said Secretary of Education Laura W. Fornash who, along with Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, co-chair the task force. "There was immediate consensus around the idea of asking our school divisions to assess their needs and providing additional state support for the purchase and installation of security systems and equipment."
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"The criteria for making the awards gave priority to schools currently without modern security equipment, older buildings, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses, and schools in divisions least able to afford upgrades," Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said. "The process also took into account the percentage of students in a division whose safety would be enhanced."
Under HB 2343, school divisions awarded grants today must provide a local match of 25 percent of the grant amount. Two divisions - Lee County and Scott County - are exempt from the local-match requirement because both have a composite index of local ability-to-pay of less than 0.2000. The Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind also is exempt.
The 2013 Appropriation Act includes a second round of School Security Equipment Grants next summer. As with the first round announced today, the grants - not to exceed $6 million statewide - will be awarded on a competitive basis, with school divisions and regional programs eligible to receive up to $100.000. The same local-match requirement will also apply to School Security Equipment Grants awarded in 2014.