Students recommend school safety improvements to lawmakers

Published: Aug. 28, 2018 at 6:02 PM EDT
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State delegates on a legislative committee tasked with making schools safer heard recommendations from students during a hearing Tuesday afternoon at Blue Ridge Community College.

The teens, who attend four high schools in the Shenandoah Valley, gave presentations and answered questions from the lawmakers.

"We hear from the adults, we hear from the professionals, but we forget sometimes [...] the reason we're having issues related to school safety is the fears or concerns that students have," said Del. Steve Landes (R-Va. 25th).

The students offered several recommendations — including annual assemblies to explain safety procedures, more safety upgrades and addressing bullying on social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram.

One issue repeatedly mentioned throughout the two-and-a-half hour hearing was access to counseling for students with a mental illness.

An assistant professor at the University of Virginia with experience in school counseling, Julia Taylor, Ph.D., recommended each school in the commonwealth have one counselor per 250 students. A school counselor for Loudoun County Public Schools also offered his insight.

The House Select Committee on School Safety was formed after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, which left 17 people dead. In the weeks and months which followed, calls for stricter gun laws created a national debate.

The delegates on the committee will spend the coming week reviewing recommendations it has received.

"We could recommend everything that we heard, but we'll probably prioritize and look at the dollar figure," Landes said. "A lot of the things that we're looking at is going to have some impact on the budget, whether it be school counselors or dealing with ratios."

The committee is set to discuss recommendations on Sept. 11.