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After Texas mass shooting, Fairfax County School Board member proposes new security measure

Members of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action join the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to designate June 3 as Gun Violence Awareness Day (via Fairfax County/Flickr)

(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A Fairfax County School Board member plans to advocate for adding security vestibules at schools in the wake of the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Melanie Meren, who represents Hunter Mill District on the board, will introduce a motion at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) requesting that Fairfax County Public Schools develop a plan to fund and install vestibules at all facilities, she said in social media posts last night (Tuesday).

Meren says she previously worked on the proposal when she joined the school board in 2020 to provide an additional layer of security on top of the intercom that most FCPS facilities use to grant entry.

“Security vestibules are a strategy for preventing intruders from gaining access to schools,” Meren told FFXnow by email. “A security vestibule requires visitors to be verified by staff in a secured sign-in area, before doors are electronically opened that grant the visitor access to the building.”

According to Meren, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand has estimated it would take $15 million to install the enclosures and related electronic systems in facilities that don’t already have them.

Meren intends to put forward the motion as part of the school board’s scheduled vote to approve the fiscal year 2023 budget. She suggests the money could come from county funds left over from this current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, as well as state and federal funds that FCPS gets for security upgrades.

“This work is long over due,” Meren wrote. “Though yet again, public schools are responsible for addressing and funding responses to a public health crisis — gun violence is a public health crisis — while our mission is to educate children for a successful future.”

Meren was one of several Fairfax County elected officials to make public statements in response to yesterday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers.

The flags outside the Fairfax County Government Center have been lowered to half-staff and will remain there until sunset on Saturday (May 28).

The shooting reportedly started around 11:32 a.m. CDT — just two hours after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to designate June 3 as Gun Violence Awareness Day. The school board is set to take the same action when it meets tomorrow.

“As a parent, I am heartbroken for the families in grief tonight and angry that, as a nation, we have not made much progress protecting innocent people, most especially children,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Our children deserve a world that puts their health and wellbeing at the forefront.”

Brabrand condemned the “senseless act of violence” in a letter to FCPS families and employees:

We want you to know that the safety of our schools, and the children and staff within them, is our highest priority. We continually work to make critical safety upgrades to our buildings each budget year. FCPS has one of the most advanced school security systems in the nation. While we hope we never see a day like today again, please be assured that we will continue to assess our protocols to ensure the safest learning and working environment possible.

Your child may have questions and concerns after learning about this tragic news. The National Association of School Psychologists has a helpful resource for families and educators to support them when talking with students about school violence. If you or your child need additional support, please reach out to your school counselor.

Lessons on gun safety are already built into our curriculum. Information about gun violence prevention is available on our website. We encourage everyone to be knowledgeable about this topic.

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee will hold a vigil at 7:30 p.m. today to commemorate victims of gun violence outside the National Rifle Association headquarters at 11250 Waples Mill Road.

Photo via Fairfax County/Flickr

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