State Sen. George Barker (D-39th) will serve on a state task force designed to review school safety procedures and make recommendations for any improvements at Virginia's schools, a group formed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in the wake of the December shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Shortly after the shootings, which left 26 students and educators dead, Gov. Bob McDonnell issued Executive Order 56 establishing a multidisciplinary task force to review school and campus safety.
Barker is among the task force members the governor announced Wednesday. In addition to several state legislators, law enforcement officials and mental health and safety experts, it also includes k through 12 and university-level educators and administrators, two students and the father of a victim in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.
“I am thankful that this dedicated group of leaders and experts has agreed to work on the important issue of keeping our schools safe," McDonnell said Wednesday in a news release.
The group will review school safety, including:
- established policies and procedures
- crisis and emergency management plans
- threat assessment protocols
- sharing best practices
- identifying resource challenges
The group is also tasked with providing legislative and budget proposals to the governor to address gaps or needs associated with safety and security at schools and campuses, according to the governor's news release.
The task force is expected to send initial recommendations to the governor no later than Jan. 31. It will continue to make recommendations on an ongoing basis and provide a final report on all aspects of the executive order to the governor no later than June 30, so recommended actions can be implemented before the new school year begins.
"As a Commonwealth, we must evaluate safety in our schools and ensure that we are providing our young people with the best opportunity to learn," he said. "I am confident this group will develop thoughtful recommendations that will ensure a safe learning environment for our students.”
Guns in schools and school safety are expected to be among the most heated topics in this year's Virginia General Assembly, which began as the governor's announcement was released Wednesday.
Twenty-one bills on gun control were filed by Virginia House and Senate members this session; nine of them are already dead.
One of the bills to take the spotlight so far: A proposal from Prince William County's Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-13th) to arm school personnel, requiring every school board in the state to "designate at least one qualified person for every school in the district who, upon application with the school board, may carry a concealed handgun on school property."
The bill does not limit school boards to a single designee, but all those appointed to carry guns — school division employees, volunteers, or retired law-enforcement officers — would have to be trained and certified by the Virginia Center for School Safety or the National Rifle Association,according to the bill.