Attorney General Mark Herring launches statewide youth education, crime prevention program

mark herringAttorney General Mark Herring today announced the statewide launch of the “Virginia Rules” program, Virginia’s state specific law-related education program to help middle and high school students make good decisions, avoid breaking laws, and become responsible, active citizens within their schools and communities. The program’s 22 modules cover topics ranging from alcohol and tobacco to drug prevention, bullying, relationship violence, gangs, and traffic laws. The program was launched today before more than 700 school safety professionals during the Virginia School & Campus Safety Training Forum in Hampton.

“I’m really proud that we’re making the Virginia Rules program available to educators and community leaders across the state,” said Attorney General Herring. “It’s a lot easier to help kids develop good decision making and life skills on the front end than to deal with the consequences on the back end. I hope we’re able to reach every student in Virginia and help them become active members of their communities and responsible citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Virginia Rules is designed for use by teachers, school resource officers, sheriffs, commonwealth’s attorneys, or community leaders who want young people in their communities to have the skills needed to make good decisions and steer clear of crime. Approved Virginia Rules teachers have access to lesson plans, student handouts, pre/post-tests, and a PowerPoint presentation for each module. Many Virginia Rules modules fulfill SOL requirements and instructors can teach all modules or simply choose the ones that are relevant to their students.

“I’m excited about the statewide launch of the Virginia Rules Program,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton. “It will serve as a great resource for schools, communities, parents, and students interested in learning about how Virginia laws apply to young people. I applaud Attorney General Herring’s decision to make this important information easily available to students across the Commonwealth and I encourage law enforcement, educators, and community leaders to take full advantage of all this program has to offer.”

The program has been piloted in recent years by Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Fairfax County, where more than 1,000 trained instructors have taught more than 75,000 lessons in schools and community settings. The top five visited sections in 2014 were Child Labor Laws, Driving, Family Relationships, Alcohol and Tobacco, Crimes Against Persons, and Drugs.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for 20 years and too often kids come through the courtroom door with no idea about the ramifications of a felony conviction,” said Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Gregory Underwood, who has used Virginia Rules in Norfolk for the past few years. “Virginia Rules helps us reach these kids before they come through the doors so they might think twice and make better decisions. It’s tough to explain complex concepts like accomplice liability even to adults, but Virginia Rules help us make it relevant to these young people.”

To help spread Virginia Rules across the Commonwealth, Attorney General Herring has begun an extensive training effort. His office will be distributing 2,000 instructors’ guides and supplemental materials and will hold at least eight regional trainings during the school year with the goal of training at least 500 new school resources and security officers as Virginia Rules instructors in 2014. More than 100 new instructors participated in a training session on Monday at the School & Campus Safety Training Forum. The Attorney General’s Director of Outreach, Virginia Rules coordinator, and regional outreach workers will also conduct trainings and grow the program. In 2014, the goal is to have 250,000 visitors to the Virginia Rules website.

“The Virginia Rules program dovetails nicely into the curriculum and provides a valuable Virginia focus which helps students make a personal connection to Virginia law, said Chad A. Maclin, Trade and Industrial Education program manager for Fairfax County Public Schools. The program also assists parents, by providing clear and accurate information in a student focused venue. The layout and presentation of the Virginia Rules program is easy to use for both parents and students. The ability to instantly search a topic or find resources to talk with teens about is as easy as launching a web browser. The website is age appropriate and provides the most up to date information regarding Virginia law.”

“Sometimes people are hesitant until they understand how easy it is to teach and how well kids relate to it,” said Mark Fletcher, a criminal justice teacher at Battlefield High School in Haymarket who also trains other Virginia Rules instructors. “The program is structured with a lesson goal, and there’s a pre and post-test which allows both the teacher and the students to see how much they’ve learned.”