Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 20, 2012

School safety — State review a prudent step

If there is one state that can perhaps — somehow — relate to the unthinkable grief that families in Newtown, Conn., are experiencing, it is probably the Commonwealth of Virginia. Before the horrible nightmare at Sandy Hook Elementary School, unrelated school shooting massacres on the campuses of Virginia Tech and the Appalachian School of Law became national tragedies.

Now Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell — correctly erring on the side of caution — plans to review school policies and procedures, as well as funding and resource challenges to ensure the safety of students and educators in their classrooms. We would urge West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to do the same.

McDonnell has asked Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker to review recently submitted school safety audits with school superintendents, the Associated Press reported. The two will identify any changes in procedures or additional resources needed in light of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

McDonell also has created a task force of educators, public safety experts, local leaders and legislators to review school safety across the Commonwealth. The goal of the task force is to identify any needed funding or legislative changes that could be brought before the General Assembly before its veto session in March.

McDonnell also announced a new position within the state Department of Criminal Justice Services dedicated to issues associated with school and campus safety. The position originated as a recommendation from the Governor’s Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board. It will be funded using existing resources, according to the governor’s office.

McDonnell correctly argues that it is the duty of state and local government to do everything possible to ensure young people from kindergarten through college are able to “learn and thrive in a safe and secure environment.”

We agree. Just like the grieving parents of the small, innocent children who were so senselessly slain in Newtown, we too have seen what a madman armed with firearms can do on school grounds. Blood has been shed both in rural Grundy, Va., and on the Blacksburg, Va., campus of Virginia Tech.

We can’t wait for a third tragedy to happen. We must act now to safeguard our elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college campuses. We applaud McDonell for taking these necessary steps, and urge Tomblin to act swiftly with a safety review of his own.

We’ve already seen acts of violence involving firearms in our local high schools — nearly two decades ago at both Princeton Senior High School and Mount View High School in Welch. It is imperative that all school safety measures be updated, enhanced and reviewed.

We owe that to our children.

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