Virginia delegates unanimously pass bills to make schools safer from shootings

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Jan. 21):

The first five bills up for vote would make sure schools are up to state safety codes, require training drills, make the duties of a school resource officer clear, ensure new schools are designed for safety, and redirect school counselors’s time to do more student counseling rather than administering tests. (Source: NBC12)

In a vote in Virginia's House of Delegates on Tuesday, a package of bills aimed to keep schools safer from shootings and violence passed unanimously.

The bills – HB 1725, HB 1729, HB 1732, HB 1733, and HB 1738 – were passed on a 97-0 vote, with three delegates not voting.

They emerged from recommendations made by the House Select Committee on School Safety made after last year’s Parkland, Florida shooting. You can learn more about each bill below.

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ORIGINAL STORY (Jan. 22):

State lawmakers will vote this week on several bills aimed at making your child's school safer from shootings and violence.

The bills are part of the 24 recommendations the House Select Committee on School Safety made after last year’s Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 people dead.

The committee proposed the bills after a year of visiting Virginia schools and hearing expert and public comments on school safety.

The first five bills up for vote would make sure schools are up to state safety codes, require training drills, make the duties of a school resource officer clear, ensure new schools are designed for safety, and redirect school counselors’ time to do more student counseling rather than administering tests.

“Counselors, who I remind everyone are specifically trained in counseling and they’re highly educated to do so, they can spend the vast majority of their time, 80 percent of their time, actually counseling students rather than on administrative tasks," said Delegate Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave).

The first bill, HB 1725, would require school boards to work with local building officials and fire marshals to ensure all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code and the Statewide Fire Prevention Code.

HB 1729, which was sponsored by Delegate Steve Landes, requires school counselors employed by school boards in public elementary or secondary schools to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students.

A third bill, HB 1732, would require each public elementary or secondary school to hold at least one general safety/emergency training or drill for students annually.

HB 1733 requires the school board in each division in which a local law enforcement agency employs school resource officers to enter into a memorandum of understanding with that agency to set determine the powers and duties of the SRO.

The last bill of these bills that will be heard by the full House, HB 1738, requires a licensed architect who is trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design to approve plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school building construction.

Speaker Cox says the state budget includes money to pay for these safety measures.

“The legislation passed this week will have an impact, I feel very strongly, on safety on students and teachers for generations to come," said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R - Colonial Heights).

The House Select Committee is bipartisan; however, Democrats criticized it for not tackling gun control. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has also proposed funding to hire more school counselors.

To track these and other bills that are making their way through the General Assembly, click here.