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Tyrone Foster Named to Virginia School Safety Panel

BRISTOL, Va. — As a police detective and Bristol Virginia School Board member, the Twin City’s Tyrone Foster brings a unique perspective to a newly established state work group on school safety.

Foster was among 20 people named this week by Gov. Ralph Northam to serve on his Work Group on Student Safety. The panel is chaired by Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. It includes educators, school personnel, public safety officials, mental health practitioners and community partners. The group is charged with making recommendations to improve student safety at the state’s public schools.

“I’m anxious. Being a School Board member, safety of students in school is very near to my heart as well as my profession being in law enforcement,” Foster said Thursday. “I was excited to be a part of it.”

 In addition to his roles locally, Foster is president-elect of the Virginia School Boards Association board of directors.

“Some of the things we’ll be looking at are effectiveness and training of school resource officers,” Foster said. “If we could come to a common training — or more training — to go across the state to make sure every officer is on the same page, that would be big.”

Foster said he also favors extending training to other school personnel.

“A lot of places aren’t as fortunate as we are in Bristol to have resource officers in each school. If they can get some type of relevant training for safety, active shooter, that would also be beneficial,” he said.

Last week, the Lee County School Board became the first in Virginia to approve, in a unanimous vote, allowing some teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons.

 Foster declined to speculate on Lee’s decision, saying he didn’t know the specifics.

In a written statement, Gov. Northam voiced optimism the panel will deliver solid suggestions.

“Virginia’s proactive policy approach has empowered our schools to prepare for and respond to new and evolving challenges, establishing the Commonwealth as a national leader in school safety,” Northam said in the statement. “I look forward to the recommendations from this group of experts on the opportunities to enhance protection of our schools, our communities, and our children.”

Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt was also named to the panel.

Foster was unable to attend the group’s first meeting on Thursday. Future meetings are planned Aug. 21 and Sept. 25 in Richmond.

dmcgee@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2532 | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC