In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting tragedy, the safety of our children is not only on the minds of concerned parents but also legislators. Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) has introduced two bills in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly addressing school security.
The first bill, House Bill (HB) 1730, requires every local school board to establish a collaborative agreement with local law enforcement agencies to employ one full-time uniformed School Resource Officer (SRO) in every public school in the Commonwealth. SROs, which are specially trained deputies and police officers, can already be found in the majority of high schools and many middle schools. However, most elementary schools do not have an assigned SRO.
While most parents and politicians would love to have an armed law enforcement officer at every school, the issue of funding is a concern. A single SRO is estimated to cost about $70,000.00 for salary and benefits alone. Delegate Cole says HB 1730 would make SROs part of each school staff and therefore funding would be through the state Standards of Quality (SOQ) for schools. Like other SOQ positions, they would be paid for partly by the state and partly by the localities. Total funding by the state does not appear to be an option and that has local leaders, who are already facing revenue shortfalls, worried as they prepare their upcoming budgets.
The second bill, HB 1582, would allow public and private schools and child care centers to hire armed security officers, licensed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services, to provide protection for students and employees. Schools are currently prohibited by state law from privately hiring armed security officers. Unlike HB 1730, this legislation would not create a mandatory requirement.
“It is a shame that we have to consider actions such as this, but I feel we need to do something to protect our school children,” Delegate Cole said. As a parent of two elementary school children, I agree increased security is needed and hope that state and local leaders can secure the necessary funding for this legislation.
HB 1730 was recently passed by the Committee on Education (19-Y/2-N) and was referred to the Committee on Appropriations. HB 1582 was referred to the Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety where it recently passed (16-Y/6-N), went to the full House of Delegates for a vote and was passed on January 30, 2013 (73-Y/25-N). Given the need for increased safety and protection for our children, I hope this legislation will become law. If you have a position on this legislation, I encourage you to contact your representatives (Senators and Delegates) and the Governor, and become involved.
About the Author: Stafford County car accident lawyer David M. Williams, Jr. is experienced in the litigation and resolution of car accident claims, wrongful death, truck accident cases and products liability cases. David works in Allen & Allen’s Garrisonville personal injury attorney office. David has over 15 years of experience in personal injury law and has successfully argued multiple cases before the Virginia Supreme Court.