At an event at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, Governor Bob McDonnell today signed 12 pieces of legislation designed to make Virginia's schools and campuses safer.
Speaking about the signing, Governor McDonnell remarked, "In response to the appalling and tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I issued Executive Order 56 on December 20th of last year in order to establish a multidisciplinary taskforce to comprehensively review school and campus safety in Virginia. As a result of the Governor's Taskforce on School and Campus Safety's diligent work, and in partnership with the General Assembly, we have identified practical solutions to greater ensure the safety of those who attend, and those who serve on, Virginia schools and campuses."
"It is so important that we are doing everything in our power to provide a safe learning environment in our schools and on our campuses," continued Governor McDonnell. "With this legislation, we are continuing to make it a priority to protect our children and those who have taken on the responsibility of caring for them. The legislation I am signing today will help make schools and campuses in Virginia safer and will provide for training and resources our educators, first responders, and mental health professionals need in order to provide the safest school environment possible. I applaud the excellent work of community leaders, elected officials and policy experts who served on the School and Campus Safety Task Force. While the important work of the task force will continue, because of these measures, Virginia children will be safer and our schools will be more secure."
In addition to the legislation signed today, Governor McDonnell this year identified strategic budget investments to improve school and campus safety. Including increased funding for school resource officers and mental health services such as psychiatric and crisis response services, mental health first aid training, and a comprehensive statewide suicide prevention program.
"I was honored to serve on the school and campus safety task force, and I'm proud of this legislation that came as a result of the task force's recommendations," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. "These measures will help ensure our schools are safer and that our children can be focused on their education."
"The bills signed into law today by Governor McDonnell are commonsense measures to ensure the safety of our students and the adults who serve them," said Delegate T. Scott Garrett. "These efforts will help improve our ability to identify threats and prevent incidents that could harm our students. We will also enhance the tools available to education officials and first responders to keep schools and campuses safe. I am honored to have played a role in their passage."
"The Governor's Taskforce on School and Campus Safety brought forward many excellent recommendations on a number of issues critical to the health and safety of Virginia students," said Senator George L. Barker. "Because of legislation signed today Virginia will have improved mental health care coordination so that students in need will be better served and enforcement will be better equipped to address threats. I applaud the work of the Task Force and thank Governor McDonnell for his leadership on this paramount issue."
School Safety Legislation Signed Today:
HB1871 (McClellan) - Defines "bullying" in the Code of Virginia and requires each school board to include in its code of student conduct policies and procedures that prohibit bullying.
HB1864 (Robinson) - Clarifies a school may deal with school-based offenses through graduated sanctions or educational programming, unless a delinquency charge is filed after a school principal reports certain acts to the local law-enforcement agency.
HB2343 (Sherwood) - Creates a special fund to provide grants to localities, subject to local match, for facility upgrades in order to improve security.
HB2344 (Cole) - Requires each school superintendent to establish a violence prevention committee and threat assessment team similar to those required for Virginia's public institutions of higher education. The legislation also provides that school systems must annually collect and report quantitative data to the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
HB2345 (Yost) - Directs the Departments of Criminal Justice Services, Education, Behavioral Health and Development Services, and State Police to develop a model Critical Incident Response training program for school personnel and those providing services to schools.
HB2346 (Ransone) - Requires each school division to designate an emergency manager to coordinate school preparedness within the division. It also mandates that schools conduct a lockdown drill once each semester.
HB2347 (Ramadan) - Facilitates the sharing of juvenile law enforcement records by the principal of the school to threat assessment teams.
SB1376 (Martin) - Expands current Virginia law by extending civil immunity to any person who reports in good faith, information that an individual poses credible danger of serious bodily injury or death to one or more students, school, personnel or others on school property.
SB0899 (Reeves) - Bumper stickers on school buses. Authorizes local school divisions to place decals on the rear of school buses noting that the buses stop at railroad crossings.
HB1609 (Hugo) and SB1342(Petersen) - Provides that the governing board of each public four-year institution of higher education shall establish written memoranda of understanding with its local community services board or behavioral health authority and with local hospitals and other local mental health facilities in order to expand the scope of services available to students seeking treatment.
SB1378 (Garrett) - Provides that a person who engages in the "strawman" purchase of a firearm, where he purchases a firearm with the intent to resell or transport with the intent to resell outside of the Commonwealth to any person he knows is prohibited from purchasing a firearm, is guilty of a Class 4 felony and shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one year.
Specific Budget Items
Item 139, #14C - This amendment includes an additional $1.3 million to finance the debt service payments on $6.0 million in equipment notes issued by the Virginia Public School Authority for the security equipment grant program, consistent with the legislation. The debt service payments for the security equipment grant program will be supported by the $1.3 million made available in the Literary Fund as a result of the additional general fund appropriation. The debt service is based on a repayment schedule of five years and the $6.0 million in bond revenue will support grants of up to $100,000 per school division each year.
Item 314, #3C - This amendment adds funding to provide a comprehensive statewide suicide prevention program effort. It provides $500,000 from the general fund the second year for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to implement a statewide program of public education, evidence-based training, health and behavioral health provider capacity-building, and related suicide prevention activity in collaboration with the Departments of Health, Education, Veterans Services, Aging and Rehabilitative Services, and other partners.
Item 315, #2C - This amendment provides $600,000 from the general fund the second year to provide mental health first aid training and certification on how to recognize and respond to mental or emotional distress. Training will target school personnel, clergy, health professionals, community agency personnel, military and veteran service organizations and advocates, and other first responders and "gatekeepers" who have extensive public contact. Funding will be used to cover the cost of personnel dedicated to this activity, training and certification, and manuals and certification for all those receiving the training. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a 12-hour interactive course that teaches the risk factors and warning signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. MHFA builds an understanding of how these illnesses affect people, provides an overview of common treatments, and teaches basic skills for providing help to someone who may be experiencing symptoms.
Item 315, #4C - This amendment provides an additional $900,000 in FY2014 for psychiatry and crisis response services for children requiring mental health services. The introduced budget added $1.0 million from the general fund the second year for children's mental health crisis services. The 2012 General Assembly added $1.5 million the first year and $1.8 million the second year from the general fund for child psychiatry and children's crisis response services.
Item 393, #1C - This amendment provides $202,300 to the Department of Criminal Justice Services in the second year from the general fund for the development of a model critical incident response training program for public school personnel and for the development of a model policy for establishing threat assessment teams in public schools. These provisions are contained in House Bills 2344 and 2345, which were recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on School and Campus Safety.
Item 393, #2C - This amendment provides $1.3 million from the general fund the second year to fully restore general fund support for the school resource officer incentive grant program. The general fund amount is equal to the level of general support provided during fiscal year 2002, which represented the largest historical general fund support for the program. The amendment also states that the Department of Criminal Justice Services will prioritize the provision of grants to localities requesting school resource officers or school security officers in elementary, middle, and high schools where no such personnel.