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Two from William & Mary to serve on governor's task force

Two members of the William & Mary community have been tapped to serve on the governor’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety.

Police Chief Don Challis and Sandra Ward, professor of education in the school psychology program at the School of Education, were appointed to the task force by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The governor’s office made the announcement Wednesday in a press release.

Challis and Ward will join a number educators, public safety experts, local leaders, mental health practitioners, legislators, parents and students from across the state on the task force. 

“I am thankful that this dedicated group of leaders and experts has agreed to work on the important issue of keeping our schools safe,” McDonnell said in the press release. “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.”

Don ChallisChallis has spent more than 24 years in campus law enforcement and security, serving as William & Mary police chief since 2003. He has been a leader on the issues of campus safety and threat assessment and has held leadership positions in the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators in recent years, including the presidency in 2007.

“The problem of campus, school and community violence has not developed, nor will it be solved, overnight,” Challis said. “Participation of the community at large will be key to the resolution of this type of violence.  Establishment of this task force is a necessary step toward that result, and I am pleased to be a part of this effort.”

Sandra WardWard has served on the William & Mary faculty since 1989. In addition to her professional publications, she was a primary investigator for grants in the area of substance abuse prevention totaling more than $1,000,000. She actively presents at both state and national conferences and consults with school divisions in Virginia.  Ward is president-elect of the board of the Virginia Academy of School Psychologists.

“Schools were not built in the anticipation of the type of horrific violence that was experienced in Newtown, Conn., last month. Although school safety and crisis prevention are not new topics among educators, public safety personnel or mental health practitioners, we need to adapt our conversation so that, hopefully, we can prevent such acts,” said Ward. “I look forward to exploring ways to create safer climates in schools for students and faculty.”

The task force - which is charged with a broad review of school safety in Virginia including review of established policies and procedures, crisis and emergency management plans and threat assessment protocols - will hold its first meeting in mid-January.