The Falls Church Public Schools and City Council worked in part separately and in part in tandem tonight to begin implementation of major new security and gun control advocacy efforts, coming one month after the mass killings of children in Newtown, Connecticut.
In what were all unanimous votes from the often-sharply divided Council tonight, a resolution to formally support Rep. Jim Moran’s Gun Safety Act (HR 21) in Congress was passed, and then funding approval for requests from the School Board to spend $200,000 on a fence around the George Mason High School and Henderson Middle School campus was OK’d to commence immediately. Also, School Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones told the Council that she’d contracted with the highly-regarded Securitas, Inc. for non-armed security experts to be deployed at the entrances to the Jefferson and Mt. Daniel elementary schools through the end of this school year.
In another student safety move not related to the threat of gun violence, the Council also gave unanimous approval to a measure that would implement $250 fines for motorist violations of school bus signals to stop for students getting on off of school buses throughout the City.A video system would be used to identify violators, and Dr. Jones reported tonight that an astonishing 65 violations per day were identified over a three-day test period in November.
It was also noted that there were 7,000 such violations in a single day reported in the State of Maryland recently.
“This is a really serious issue, given how people seem to be driving so stressed out these days,” City Councilman Ira Kaylin said tonight. “A $250 fine is a great tranquilizer.” Council Phil Duncan agreed, saying the problem is of “preposterous” proportions, that extrapolating from 65 violations a day would generate over $900,000 dollars.
Any net revenues from the fines would be split (in a proportion to be determined) between the City and the Schools.
Kaylin used the need for immediate action to better secure the schools to also pitch for security improvements needed at City Hall and the library. That subject will arise again this coming Thursday, Jan.17, when the City Council and School Board convene a joint meeting at the Dogwood Room at City Hall to discuss a 20-year facilities plan. At that time, the subject of either upgrading existing facilities or making some major shifts — such as to move Mt. Daniel from its present location on 10 acres (only seven of which are useable) in Fairfax County to the current location of the Falls Church City Hall, and the relocation of City Hall to a new public-private partnership mixed use structure downtown — would be preferred.