Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) has announced the creation of the Select Committee on School Safety. The first select committee formed in  155 years is set to review state and local policy regarding safety in Virginia schools to provide recommendations for the 2019 General Assembly session.

In a letter sent to the Clerk of the House of Delegates on Thursday morning, Speaker Cox outlined the mission of the committee in light of recent tragedies in the U.S.

“Recent tragedies involving unimaginable violence in our nation’s schools have renewed questions about state and local policies intended to safeguard and protect our children. It is our responsibility to ensure our schools are safe and that students can learn free from the fear of violence. Toward this end, the Virginia General Assembly has taken steps in recent years to strengthen school security. However, this issue is so complex and multi-faceted that it requires a special and dedicated review process beyond the time constraints of the current session.”

In a press release from the office of the speaker, the General Assembly has been charged with being “ever-vigilant” on legislation for school safety.

“The House of Delegates led the effort in recent years to make our schools safer, but the tragedy in Parkland, Florida shows us that we must be ever-vigilant when it comes to school safety. We are taking a bold and significant step today to make school safety a top priority of the House of Delegates. I am appointing the Select Committee on School Safety to comprehensively review state and local policies on school safety and make recommendations to the General Assembly for the 2019 session. The House has not formed a Select Committee in over 150 years, which speaks to the significance of this step.”

Cox said, “The scope of work for this committee is specifically limited to school safety.” He added that the implementation of the committee’s review of safety precautions will, “not allow more partisan issues to distract us from the important steps we must take to ensure that our children are safe in our public schools.”

The committee’s work will help bolster emergency preparedness, school security infrastructure, fostering the most efficient security practices, deploying additional security personnel, instituting further behavioral heath resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at public schools in Virginia.

The release also explained that the committee will not forward legislation on gun control. The release explains:

“The committee will not discuss issues related to guns or broader behavioral health policy that are being considered by other commissions or standing committees. The committee also will not consider security at institutions of higher education, many of which already have rigorous security requirements and are governed by national accrediting agencies that set guidelines for their security.”

Delegate Danny Marshall (R-Danville) will serve as the Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee on School Safety.

“As I watched parents grieve over the loss of their children after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was struck by the parents who said our focus should not be on overly-broad gun control measures, but instead on the important work of keeping our children safe,” Marshall said. “I am proud to be part of a productive conversation about securing our schools and look forward to beginning our work.”

“When we talk about improving our education system, we must start with the safety of our schools,” said House Education Chairman Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta), also a member of the committee. “This Select Committee has an important job ahead of them and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find practical solutions to ensure the safety of our children.”

“This Select Committee will allow us to identify problems and consider solutions that will truly make our children safer in schools,” said Courts of Justice Chairman Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle). “As people often find in the House Courts Committee, translating ideas into actual laws is hard work and words matter. I look forward to working with my colleagues.”

Speaker Cox will head the committee as chairman. Under his tutelage, 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats will serve to discuss the next steps Virginia must take to provide for the safety of students.

The members of the Select Committee include: Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Steve Landes (R-Augusta), Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Tommy Wright (R-Cumberland), Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), Danny Marshall (R-Danville), Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Chris Peace (R-Hanover), Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield), Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol), Nick Rush (R-Floyd), Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax), Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), Luke Torian (D-Prince William), Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax), Steve Heretick (D-Norfolk), Mike Mullin (D-Newport News), Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), and Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico).

The Select Committee on School Safety will complete its review by November 15, 2018 and produce a final report containing recommendations by December 15, 2018.