Governor OKs, amends school safety bills

Gov. Bob McDonnell has approved at least six bills and proposed revisions to at least three others aimed at improving school security and creating a safe campus environment. McDonnell had until midnight Monday to act on legislation passed by the General Assembly during its 2013 regular session. Among other measures, the governor signed a half-dozen bills that had been recommended by the School and Campus Safety Task Force that he created in December. These bills will take effect July 1:

• SB 1078, sponsored by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, will require the State Board for Community Colleges to craft a policy to raise awareness about mental health needs among community college student and faculty members. The law also requires each community college to have at least one individual who acts as a contact point on mental health issues.

• SB 1376, introduced by Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, will exempt school officials and individuals from civil liability for reporting or investigating the threat of another individual on school property as long as it is done without malice.

• HB 1582, introduced by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, will allow security officers hired by schools to carry firearms on school property. The law also prevents the Board of Social Services from preventing day-care centers from hiring an armed security officer.

• HB 1871, sponsored by Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, provides a legal definition for “bullying” and requires public schools to enforce penalties related to incidences of bullying. The definition of “bullying” includes “any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate or humiliate the victim.”

• HB 2343, introduced by Delegate Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester, will establish the School Security Infrastructure Improvement Fund and the Local School Safety Fund. These funds will be distributed in the form of grants and loans necessary to enhance a school building’s overall security as well as violence prevention measures.

• HB 2346, introduced by Delegate Margaret Ransone, R-Kinsale, requires public schools to undergo inspections by a school safety audit committee in accordance with a standardized checklist. The law also requires all public schools to conduct at least two lock-down drills each school year.

McDonnell also wrote recommendations for a number of other bills suggested by the School and Campus Safety Task Force. These proposed revisions will be considered by the General Assembly when it reconvenes April 3. The governor recommended modifying such bills as:

• SB 1378, introduced by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Lynchburg. It would increase the penalty for “straw purchases” of a firearm, in which the buyer intends to resell the weapon to someone who is ineligible to have a gun. McDonnell’s recommendation makes it clear that this would not apply to adults buying guns for their children or grandchildren.

• HB 1609, introduced by Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville. As passed, the bill said, “The governing board of each public four-year institution of higher education may establish a written memorandum of understanding with its local community services board or behavioral health authority and with local hospitals and other local mental health facilities in order to expand the scope of services available to students seeking treatment.” McDonnell recommended changing “may” to “shall” – thus requiring colleges and universities to forge such agreements.

• HB 2347, proposed by Delegate David Ramadan, R-South Riding, would allow school principals to pass along to campus police officers information provided by juvenile intake officers about the criminal activity of currently enrolled students. The governor’s recommendation makes it clear that private school administrators also could share this information.

McDonnell created the School and Campus Safety Task Force in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The group submitted an initial round of recommendations to McDonnell on Jan. 31. It will issue a final report by June.
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Henrico Democrats nominate Lynch, Rodman

APR. 29, 6:15 P.M. – Henrico Democrats today selected their party's nominees for the Brookland District Supervisor seat and the 73rd District House of Delegates seat during a party caucus.

Courtney Lynch, the founder of a leadership development company, was somewhat of a surprise winner in the Brookland District supervisor's race. She defeated Virginians for High Speed Rail Executive Director Danny Plaugher, who had been the party's nominee two years ago in the general election for the seat.

Debra Rodman, a Randolph-Macon College professor, earned the party's nomination for the 73rd House District seat, defeating Chelsea Savage, a nurse, in a runoff. Attorney Sarah Smith was third and Bill Coleman, a project manager for a health organization, fourth.
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Therapeutic healing


In a room labeled the garden room, a bright space with lavender-colored walls and pebble-gray chairs, art therapist Becky Jacobson might ask her patients to imagine a safe place, but she doesn’t ask them to describe it to her — she wants them to draw it.

The patients are free to draw whatever they envision, expressing themselves through their colored markers, a form of healing through art therapy.

“Some people might not feel safe anywhere because they have had hard things happening to them, and I have the background to help that person reground and feel safe in the group,” Jacobson said. > Read more.

Eight’s enough? Crowded race for 56th District develops


Following the retirement of Delegate Peter Farrell [R-56th District], a number of candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to vie for the open seat in the Virginia General Assembly district, which contains a portion of Henrico’s Far West End.

Democratic challengers include Lizzie Basch and Melissa Dart, while Republican contenders include George Goodwin, Matt Pinsker, Graven Craig, Surya Dhakar, Jay Prendergrast and John McGuire. In addition to a section of Henrico, the district also includes portions of Goochland and Spotsylvania County, as well as all of Louisa County. > Read more.

On the trail to Awareness


Twenty-five teams, composed of some 350 participants, gathered at Dorey Park in Varina April 8 for the Walk Like MADD 5k, to benefit Mothers Against Drunk Driving Virginia. The event raised more than $35,000, with more funds expected to come in through May 7. > Read more.

Leadership Metro Richmond honors St. Joseph’s Villa CEO


Leadership Metro Richmond honored St. Joseph's Villa CEO Kathleen Burke Barrett, a 2003 graduate of LMR, with its 2017 Ukrop Community Vision Award during its annual spring luncheon April 6.

The award honors a LMR member who demonstrates a purposeful vision, a sense of what needs to be done, clear articulation with concern and respect for others with demonstrated action and risk-taking. > Read more.

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Fifty-eight FIRST Robotics Competition teams from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia will face off at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Apr. 7-8 at the VCU Siegel Center. This is the culmination of seven district qualifying competitions where over 125 teams competed. Winners will advance to the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Mo. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. Full text

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