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EDITORIAL: House decision a step in the right direction

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If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that children need to be safe.

They shouldn’t go to school worried about a classmate or some random person walking into school with a firearm and opening fire while they’re in class. Regardless of our social, religious or political feelings, we as communities and states should be able to sit down and come up with a plan to protect them. That’s why we applaud Thursday’s decision by the Virginia House of Delegates.

As we report on today’s front page, Speaker Kirk Cox created the House Select Committee on School Safety. It’s a group made up of delegates from across the state, including our own Danny Marshall. The committee is tasked with the assignment of reviewing state and local policies on school safety and making recommendations for the full General Assembly to take up next year.

Here’s one key component of that assignment we keenly appreciate. Their task involves not only recommendations on new measures to take, but also how the state will pay for it. As Marshall himself said in today’s story, his district, including Henry County, just doesn’t have the money to pay for any unfunded mandates.

To not just present a proposal, but also detail how it will be funded, addresses that concern. It helps not just Henry County, but other rural areas like Franklin or Patrick that would ultimately put in place the same policies as schools in the Tidewater or Northern Virginia. That by itself will help craft policies that will benefit people, as opposed to pieces of paper.

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But more than that, the scope of the committee is something to be applauded. As Marshall said, the group will be looking this year at everything from what other states do, to how other nations approach the issue of school shootings. How does Israel keep students safe? What are the procedures in Australia to prevent this type of thing? Closer to home, what are other states doing? In Nebraska, for example, some parents are buying bulletproof panels, to have them installed in the classrooms. In Indiana, some schools employ cameras with a direct feed to the county sheriff’s office, while others have installed smoke cannons in the hallways, with the idea that you can disorient the shooter while students get to safety.

We’re not saying any of these options are the answer-but we’re also not saying they won’t work.

However, it’s important to examine all of the options and see which ones best fit Virginia classrooms. In cases like this, it helps to step outside of the box and look at other ideas.

We all have our own thoughts on the issue, with different ways of addressing it. In recent weeks, you’ve seen quite of few of them come through our letters to the editor, with people being very vocal on their plan of choice. And we understand the passionate views on both sides. Some people want tighter restrictions on gun ownership, while others want to see teachers armed to address the threat.

Here’s what we’re asking, however. Let’s give the group time to do their work. Let them research, let them learn how things work in other states and countries and come up with recommendations, as well as a plan to implement and pay for them.

We understand it’s admittedly a hard thing to ask. Especially when it comes to protecting our kids, we want a solution right now, not in five months’ time. But if we want a long-term solution, this is a good first step.

The Bulletin Editorial Board consists of Brian Carlton, Ben R. Williams and Trisha Long.

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