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Virginia Legislators Emphasize Holistic Approach to School Safety

Community advocates invited Virginia lawmakers to Art 180 over the weekend to see an exhibit made by incarcerated youth and discuss school safety policy reforms.

Legal Aid Justice Center and other advocates wanted lawmakers to hear from students and counselors themselves, like Henrico’s Bethany Bushey. She says she’s the only counselor for about 500 elementary students. “So you have everybody pulling you in all these directions that are great, they’re directions you should go in, but you just don’t have the time to be able to do them all and then you have to pick and choose, which is heartbreaking if you can’t talk to a student who needs you.”

Even with a priority to increase school counselor’s direct student contact to 80% of their workload, Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg and others have committed to advocating for further holistic measures like lowering counselor to student ratios. “If you’re 80/20 but you still have 400 kids on your caseload, that’s still a problem.”

Speaker Kirk Cox has released a memo of 24 priorities out of the original 58. One would change counselor’s work loads so they have more direct contact with students, but it wouldn’t lower the counselor to student ratio.

The committee will choose final policy recommendations on Wednesday.