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McDonnell Forms School Safety Task Force

The group will review practices, identify vulnerabilities and make recommendations.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has formed a task force that will focus on school and safety in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Even with raw emotions still running so high, it is prudent to begin to consider reasonable policy changes,” McDonnell said in a statement Thursday. “In the aftermath of the horrific and senseless shootings, I have asked all local and state leaders that play a role in school or campus safety to review the procedures, plans, policies and resources dedicated to this effort.”

The task force will lead by the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Public Safety and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources. Representatives from law enforcement, state agencies, health care entities, and public and private school systems will be appointed.

McDonnell has charged the task force with reviewing best practices and pinpointing weak spots in school security in order to avoid tragedies such as Newtown and the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007.

“I have ordered a detailed and thorough review of school and campus safety to identify areas of needed improvement and critical resource needs at the state, local, school division and college … levels to ensure that we are doing everything humanly possible to keep our children, young people, educators, administrators and staff safe while they are in the classroom and on our campuses,” McDonnell said.

On Tuesday, McDonnell said it might be time to think about arming teachers and other school officials. The comment was met with criticism from Virginia State Senate Democrats.

"And when that fails to stop this, what's next?” said Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th), Democratic Leader. “Arm the students? If teachers wanted to carry guns in order to do their day job, they would have become policemen."

The task force’s initial recommendations are expected to be on the governor’s desk by Jan. 31. In order for the recommendations to be finalized and implemented in time for the new school year, an executive order will be given to McDonnell by June 30.

McDonnell added that he has also formed a separate mental health work group that will be chaired by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Bill Hazel, Secretary of Health and Human resources. 

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