Fairfax County School Board to evaluate district-wide security, calls on Congress for gun reform

- The Fairfax County School Board unanimously passed a resolution calling on Congress to act on gun legislation Thursday night. But it wasn’t first without contention during a standing room-only meeting.

Things became especially heated when board member Thomas Wilson attempted to bring up the topic of the opioid epidemic.

“It takes the lives of 150 a day,” Wilson tried to say to the crowd, who quickly shut him down.

Many in the audience felt that Wilson went off topic when talking about getting to the heart of the gun issue and the resolution.

Board member Ryan McElveen introduced the resolution, which reads in part:

“The Fairfax County School Board calls upon the United States Congress and state legislatures, including the Virginia General Assembly, to prioritize the protection of students and school system employees by passing legislation that more effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety, funds public-health research on firearms-related issues, and advances mental health supports.”

Most board members drew loud cheers from the crowd as they gave speeches supporting the resolution. 

“I hope that our legislators hear it,” Alexandra Johnson told FOX 5.

Johnson is a senior at Lake Braddock High School and appreciates the sentiment, but also wants to see it followed through.

“I hope that they take action because of it,” she said. “I hope that they realize that it is not just the school board, but it is every single student and teacher in Fairfax County that stands behind it. They are elected officials for a reason and the fact that it was unanimous is really powerful I think.”

Thursday’s resolution did not call for specific steps taken on the school board’s part – that was a separate forum topic board member Elizabeth Schultz proposed before the general meeting. Her proposal read:

“The Board needs to have a comprehensive discussion regarding the Safety and Security measures deployed in our schools, what current practices are in place at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and discuss the potential of incorporating full-time armed presence in all schools – either through additional Fairfax County Police Officers or licensed armed security.

In addition, the Board should: discuss the potential of acquiring additional technology for identifying active shooters in buildings, assess existing policies regarding emergency preparedness drills and whether active shooter drills should be incorporated into existing practices, and other additional measures as may be suggested by Safety and Security personnel, including recommendations for additional safety and security subject matter expertise. Aspects of Safety and Security which are different for administrative facilities versus school buildings also need to be reviewed and discussed."

The board approved the action in part – striking the proposal to discuss putting armed personnel in every Fairfax County Public School. Armed officers are already in every high school and some middle schools, but not in elementary schools.

It is a specific part that Rebecca Richey, a mother with children in a Fairfax County elementary school, was hoping for.

“I am sure that I am not the only one who sees that to get anything passed, that stuff takes a lot of time,” she told FOX 5. “And in the meantime, what are you going to do then? Are you going to just sit and wait for another one to happen and everybody is going to say all the fancy speeches about ‘now we need more reform.’ Really? Secure what you have now and debate later.”

A representative from the school district said they have already taken steps to begin evaluating security in all Fairfax County schools. There is no timeline as to when that evaluation will be complete.

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