Sherwood’s schools bill passes House

Posted: February 21, 2013

The Winchester Star

Del. Beverly Sherwood

WINCHESTER — In an often bitterly divided state General Assembly, bills don’t get much more popular than one recently introduced by Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County.

Sherwood’s bill to increase security in the state’s public schools sailed through two House of Delegates committees and the full House without a dissenting vote.

The House passed the legislation Monday to create a $30 million grant program to help schools invest in security infrastructure like cameras, automatic locks on classroom doors and buzz-in systems. It still needs to be passed by the Senate and obtain the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“After the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., last year, we all wanted to take meaningful steps to make sure Virginia would never witness a tragedy like that here,” Sherwood said in a Tuesday news release.

In December, 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Officials in the three local school divisions did not want to divulge their security procedures, but said they would welcome state funding to enhance safety measures.

Winchester Superintendent Rick Leonard said local schools already have many security measures in place, but they often require costly annual upgrades.

“We would certainly welcome any state funding help,” he said Wednesday.

Clarke County Superintendent Mike Murphy and Steve Edwards, Frederick County coordinator of policy, records management and communications, agreed.

“If such funds were made available, we would be interested in applying,” Murphy said.

Under the provisions of the bill, a school division would be required to provide a minimum 10 percent project match for a loan from the fund and a minimum 50 percent project match for a grant.

While Sherwood’s bill to spend more money on school security advanced, all legislation that would have required every person purchasing a firearm to undergo a background check has failed.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com