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Month after Newtown, Va. School Safety Task Force assembles

RICHMOND—A newly appointed school safety task force created by Gov. Bob McDonnell is now hard at work. The group met for the first time Monday.

Fueled by the tragic events of what happened in Newtown, Conn., McDonnell said he wants to make sure nothing falls through the cracks when it comes to school and campus safety.
 
The group of over 40 members is made up of law enforcement, mental health experts, teachers, students and parents. One parent that’s on the task force has his own personal story of loss. Allen Hill’s daughter, Rachael, died in the Virginia Tech shooting.
 
Hill explained that he and his wife simply want to offer a listening ear or any support they can.

“Certainly the desire is good, and the intent is good. We want our kids to be able to go to school safely. They should be able to live, move and play in an environment of safety. Anything we can do to be a part of the answer or to improve that, we’re all for,” Hill said.

Public safety secretary Marla Decker said she imagines there will be some discussion about putting a law enforcement resource officer in every school in Virginia. She declined to say whether or not she supports that, but said she’s interested in hearing all of the ideas that will be brought to the table during this process.
 
Decker said the biggest challenge she sees right now is money. “Budget issues are going to be a challenge. Things you do to improve the safety of schools, whether it’s putting in school resource officers or locks on doors or whatever needs to be done to enhance safety, costs money,” Decker explained.
 
McDonnell said he’s keeping that in mind. “What I have done is put the legislature on notice and I’ve reserved some $50 million in the budget because I may have some recommendations at the end of January to dedicate toward school safety” McDonnell said.
 
The school safety task force must give McDonnell preliminary recommendations by Jan. 31. The final report must be completed by June.