By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Del. Joseph Yost (R-12th) was appointed Wednesday to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s newly-created Task Force on School and Campus Safety.
“One of the key principles of government is public safety, and the recent events in Connecticut and the similarities that we experienced at Virginia Tech in 2007, show the desperate need to insure our student
and facility’s safety,” Yost said of his appointment. He represents a portion of Pulaski County.
As a jail diversion coordinator, Yost has experience on mental health-related issues. He said his “unique understanding” of the field will “provide insight to insure that mental health is incorporated into the final opinion that the Task Force puts forward.”
Yost went on to say, “Mental health-related issues are an integral part of this conversation and I am honored to help lead this effort.”
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the task force will review school safety policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans, threat assessment protocols and identify resource challenges. It also will develop legislative and budget proposals that address critical gaps or needs associated with safety and security in schools and on campuses.
“I am thankful that this dedicated group of leaders and experts has agreed to work on the important issue of keeping our schools safe,” said McDonnell. “As a Commonwealth, we must evaluate safety in our schools and ensure that we are providing our young people with the best opportunity to learn. I am confident this group will develop thoughtful recommendations that will ensure a safe learning environment for our students.”
The task force will send its initial recommendations to the governor and Virginia General Assembly no later than Jan. 31. The proposals will be considered during the session, which began Wednesday. A final report is due to McDonnell by June 30 so that recommended actions can be taken prior to the beginning of the next school year.
Task force membership includes educators, public safety experts, local leaders, mental health practitioners, legislators, parents, and students. Yost is one of six members representing the General Assembly.
McDonnell issued Executive Order 56 establishing the task force Dec. 20 in light of the murders that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Also Wednesday, Yost was appointed to the House Committee on Privileges and Elections. The oldest committee in the House, the committee considers matters involving voting, apportionment and redistricting of state and congressional districts, constitutional amendments, elections, elected officeholders, and nominations and appointments to any office or position in the Commonwealth, except judges and justices of the Commonwealth.