Virginia House passes bill to require school resource officers at all public schools
VIRGINIA (FOX 5 DC) - A bill has passed the Virginia House that would require every public school to have at least one school resource officer.
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Even school districts that already have SROs in middle and high schools, such as Alexandria, Fairfax County and Loudoun County schools, would be impacted. They would have to hire officers for their elementary schools as well.
The mandate would also be unfunded, meaning each locality would have to figure out how to come up with the money to hire SROs on their own.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilsons says he supports SROs in schools, but can't support this bill.
"I don’t believe that Richmond, the General Assembly should be making staffing decisions for our police department and certainly not unfunded staffing decisions," he says. "I think part of the challenge here is this would require an expansion of SROs for us, and we haven’t had SROs in our elementary schools in over a decade."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Changes coming to school resource officer program at Alexandria Public Schools
Currently, 705 schools in Virginia, or 38%, do not have a school resource officer, according to Delegate Karen Greenhalgh.
This new bill would require school boards to enter into an agreement with local law enforcement to have at least one SRO or unarmed school security officer in K-12 schools in the Commonwealth.
Delegate Greenhalgh would want them to have a contract ready to go by August 2022.
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Executive Director of Rise for Youth Valeria Slater says this new measure would force localities to take officers off the street at a time when there's already a shortage.
"We can’t allow our first line of response to be police officers," she says. "We love our police officers, and we want them to continue to serve and to protect, but protect, but protect against those outside influences those negative things, those harmful and criminal things that would attempt to get into the school building."
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The bill will now head to the state senate.