Jillian McGarrity ’14, an elementary education major at University of Lynchburg from Midlothian, is the only college student named to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Task Force of School and Campus Safety. The task force submitted its recommendations to McDonnell on Jan. 31.
“It’s kind of of nerve-wracking,” Jill said. “I sat next to a delegate (Jan. 31). It’s a humbling experience. It’s cool they want to hear a younger generation’s perspective.”
Jill said she was recommended to serve on the panel by her former middle school assistant principal, Javaid Sidiiqi, who is now deputy secretary of education for McDonnell.
Jill, who served on the task force’s public safety committee, said a couple of recommendations resonated most with her.
“I would like to see more funding for SROs (student resource officers) and more lock-down drills for schools,” she said.
Forty-five people serve on the panel charged with reviewing school policies and procedures. Members include state and local leaders, lawmakers, public safety experts, mental health practitioners, parents, and students.
McDonnell created the panel following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The task force will make additional recommendations on an ongoing basis and provide a final report by June 30 so that recommended actions can be implemented before the new school year begins.
Jill said the Sandy Hook shooting made her wonder what she would do as a future teacher. “It made me question what kind of loopholes were in the system,” she said. “If someone doesn’t feel safe where they are, it makes it a harder environment to learn in.”
Jill said she will talk about safety precautions at University of Lynchburg as part of her duties on the task force. “I love every day on the LC campus and I feel incredibly safe,” she said.
The panel is co-chaired by Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker, Secretary of Education Laura Fornash, and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel.
The group reviewed school safety, including established policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans, threat assessment protocols, as well as best practices and resource challenges. The task force also provided legislative and budget proposals to the governor to address critical gaps or needs associated with safety and security in schools and on campuses.