Washington County VA

Gov. McDonnell introduces proposals to make schools safer

School Safety

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's plan to make state schools and campuses safer is moving through the General Assembly. We found out how some of these proposals will make kids safer in school.

Tosha Harris is a parent of a young child and she says something needs to be done to help ease her four-year-old daughter's fear. "She heard a gunshot and said, ‘they're going to the school,' and that really upset me," said Harris.

Keith Perrigan, principal at Patrick Henry High School, says many options were discussed, some good and some not. "There were a lot of suggestions that don't work in a school building on a day-to-day basis and, of course, some of those are not practical and don't make sense for us in the school building," said Harris.

Perrigan tells us there was one topic that kept popping up. "We really stressed the need to have as many resource officers in schools as possible," he said.

We learned the state is looking to provide $1.3 million to fund those officers. "When students see an armed deputy in the building, somebody they know and trust, I think it goes a long way in helping our students feel safe," said Harris.

Harris says it would be money well-spent. "Having an officer there will keep it from escalating; any life you save is worth it. So if one officer saves a class of kids, it's worth it," said Harris. 

We found out there are eight key elements for the school safety agenda, with three making it through legislative committee.

One of the bills would increase the punishment for straw-man gun transactions. That's when someone who will likely not get approved uses someone who will pass a background check to buy the gun for them.

Another bill sent to the Senate floor would increase the penalty for entering a school armed and with intent to commit a felony.

The third measure would provide civil immunity to anyone reporting a campus threat.

"I think everybody's attention is focused on making sure our students are as safe as possible," said Harris.

Perrigan says there are other things that need to be addressed to increase school safety and they hope to revisit them at a later time.

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