Adopt school safety ideas, governor tells Assembly

Gov. Bob McDonnell is urging state legislators to approve recommendations from his School and Campus Safety Task Force that would increase sentences for illegally buying guns, require mandatory lockdown drills at schools and establish more comprehensive suicide prevention programs.

McDonnell sent the General Assembly a letter Friday outlining the panel’s initial recommendations.

“I am pleased to report that the Taskforce has provided me with a number of initial recommendations that the members believe will help make our schools and campuses safer,” McDonnell wrote. “After reviewing their initial recommendations, I agree that these will help make our schools and campuses more secure.”

The letter highlighted 10 recommendations involving public safety (including restoring funding for school resource officers); two involving education (such as funding anti-bullying training); and three involving mental health (like expanding outpatient services).

“Given the limited time left in session and considering that budget development is already well underway, I am providing you with my thoughts regarding which recommendations should be given your highest consideration and most immediate attention,” the governor said.

McDonnell established the task force in the wake of December’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.

The task force issued its initial recommendations Thursday.

Under current law, the illegal purchase or transport of firearms is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail. The task force’s proposal would make this violation a Class 6 felony punishable by up to five years in jail.

The recommendations would also increase the punishment for “straw-man purchases” of firearms. That’s when someone legally buys a gun with the intent to sell it directly to someone who is ineligible to purchase a firearm. The law currently provides a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail for straw-man purchases.

The task force proposed increasing the punishment for all straw-man transactions and mandating a punishment of 10 years in jail for the ineligible person if the transaction involves more than one firearm.

For people who enter a school with a firearm or explosive device, the panel suggested that they be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.

No proposals limit any current laws of legal gun ownership.

The task force also issued recommendations that require more security on the schools’ part. For instance, all schools would be required to conduct a lockdown drill within the first 20 days of the fall and spring semester.

The task force also proposed that all schools institute a more in-depth mental health program and suicide prevention activities. Another proposal suggests that teachers undergo training and certification so they can recognize and treat mental or emotional distress among students or other faculty.

The General Assembly has less than a month to turn these recommendations into law. The legislative session is scheduled to end on Feb. 23.

The task force is expected to send the governor another set of recommendations by June 30.

In his letter to the General Assembly, McDonnell said, “I am confident that by working together we will make our schools and campuses safer and improve upon the legal and budgetary framework necessary to help our first responders, education and mental health profession protect all Virginians.”

On the web
In his letter to members of the General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell listed all the initial recommendations issued by the School and Campus Safety Task Force, and noted which ones he considered priorities. The letter is available at http://www.tinyurl.com/safetyproposals.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Fresh Air Fund seeks host families


The Fresh Air Fund, a program through which nearly 4,000 children from low-income New York City communities spend a summer with host families in communities along the East Coast and in southern Canada, is seeking hosts for the coming summer.

According to the organization, there is no such thing as a “typical” host family. First-time Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from seven to 12 years old. Children who are reinvited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. > Read more.

Godwin student wins in statewide STEM essay contest

Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Council on Women announced recently that Morgan Logsdon of Mills E. Godwin High School was one of five statewide winners of the sixth-annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women enrolled in their junior or senior year of high school.

The Council on Women established the contest to award scholarships to high school junior and senior young women who plan to pursue STEM careers at institutions of higher education. > Read more.

Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

Henrico Police arrest 2 Georgia men in connection with January murder


Henrico Police have arrested and charged two Georgia men with first-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 18 murder of 36-year-old Lamont Cornelius Baldwin in the 1200 block of Dominion Townes Terrace.

Antonio Tyrone Johnson (above, left) and Santonio Rodrigus Brown (above, right), both 24 and both of Atlanta, were charged. Johnson also was charged with use of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a felon. > Read more.

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The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will broadcast Bolshoi Ballet’s production of “Contemporary Evening” at 12:55 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. Pathe Live's Bolshoi Ballet program brings the best Bolshoi Ballet productions direct from Moscow, Russia to cinemas and performing arts centers across the U.S. Each production features behind-the-scenes programming, including interviews with the cast and creative teams, either prior to the start of the production, or during intermission. Tickets are $7 to $14. For details, call 289-8980 or visit http://www.modlin.richmond.edu. Full text

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