FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:Randy Barrack, VASSP Executive Director at (804) 355-2777Jim Baldwin, VAESP Executive Director at (804) 355-6791Steven Staples, VASS Executive Director at (757) 903-9434
Virginia Principals and Superintendents React to Connecticut Tragedy
The Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP), the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals (VAESP) and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS)appreciate Governor McDonnell’s effort to begin a dialogue that focuses on school safety and areas for improvement in security in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. All principals andsuperintendents are aware that security in Virginia’s schools is an everyday concern, and not something to be discussed solely after a horrific tragedy like the events that occurred in Connecticut. The VASSP, VAESP and VASS are willing to participate in any discussion that has the potential to makeour schools safer places for students and staff. We are concerned, however, with the Governor’s interestin permitting staff to carry firearms as a possible deterrent to violence in schools. We believe the problemis more complex and the conversation needs to encompass other and more diverse solutions beginningwith defining the roles of School Resource Officers and assistant principals and increasing both positionsfor which the funding was cut in previous state budget actions by the General Assembly.Ben Kiser, VASS President and Superintendent of Gloucester County Schools stated, “We cannot andshould not turn our schools into fortresses.” He continued, “Effective prevention cannot wait until thereis a gunman in a school parking lot; we need resources such as School Resource Officers, assistant principals, mental health supports and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help.” Other options that need to be explored include the use of additional support staff or non-classroom personnel who may serve as the “eyes and ears” of schools. The funding for these positions has also beencut by the General Assembly. Also, school construction funds could potentially be used to encouragelocal school divisions to address security. Many older buildings and facilities were constructed prior tothe current guidelines and regulations.