Thursday, December 27, 2012

School Safety Likely a Hot Issue in the Upcoming Session

The 2013 session of the General Assembly is about to begin.  We anticipate a very busy short session this year.  Due to the tragic events in Newtown, we expect many bills to be introduced dealing with gun control issues and with school safety.  You have undoubtedly read about calls nationally and in Virginia for arming school employees and other means of protecting our schools from armed intruders.  We will not know the full scope and number of those bills until the bill introduction cutoff takes effect (January 18) and the printed bills appear in the Legislative Information System.  You may find it of interest as the school safety debate heats up that until the 2002 session of the General Assembly, school boards could employ school security officers who were appointed as conservators of the peace or as special police officers and who could, therefore, carry firearms.  During its 2002 session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 498 (Ch. 868 Acts of Assembly) which prohibited school security officers from being conservators of the peace or special police officers.  It was clear from the debates in committee over this bill that the intent of the bill was to prohibit school employees from possessing firearms.  It is interesting that we appear to be coming full circle.  Perhaps the General Assembly will consider restoring the authority of school boards to employ school security officers who may carry firearms as part of their job duties.