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Bill aims to put more uniformed officers in schools

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania, has filed a bill for the General Assembly’s 2013 session that would require school divisions and law enforcement agencies to work together to put a uniformed, full-time school resource officer in every school.

The idea of putting more officers in schools has gained popularity in recent weeks after the Connecticut school shooting.

 In Virginia, many middle and high schools have one or more school resource officers assigned to them, but most elementary schools do not.

Recently, House Speaker Bill Howell, R–Stafford, said he supports budgeting more money for grants to help localities pay for additional school resource officers.

Those officers are sworn law enforcement officers, employed by local law enforcement agencies and assigned to work in schools. They are separate from school security personnel.

Cole says his bill would make school resource officers part of each school’s staff, and thus they would be funded through the state Standards of Quality for schools. Like other SOQ positions, they’d be paid for partly by the state and partly through local funds.

Cole also has another bill that would allow schools or day care centers—public or private—to hire armed security officers if they chose to do so. That would be optional, not mandatory.

“It is a shame that we are at this point in society, but I feel like we have to do something to make our children safer. These are two options that I thought we should at least consider,” Cole said in an email.

The General Assembly session starts Wednesday.

 Chelyen Davis:  540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

AREA SCHOOL SECURITY

School divisions across the Fredericksburg area have trained law enforcement at many schools, but not all. Here’s how school resource officers (SROs) are used:

Spotsylvania County—One officer at each of the county’s five high schools and seven middle schools. Those officers are responsible for periodically visiting the 17 elementary schools.

Stafford County—One officer at each of the county’s five high schools. Two officers are shared among the eight middle schools. The division also has 17 elementary schools.

Fredericksburg—One officer at the city’s only high school. The division also has one middle and two elementary schools.

King George County—One officer at the high school and another at the middle school. The division also has three elementary schools.

Caroline County—Sheriff Tony Lippa declined to release the information. The county has six schools including one middle and one high school.

Culpeper County—The county has one deputy at each of the two high schools. Two others each handle one middle and one elementary school. A fifth deputy handles four elementary schools.

Orange County—The county has three full-time resource officers. One is assigned to the high school. The others are assigned to the two middle schools but moved to patrol at the start of the school year. They are to be sent back to the schools by the end of this month, Sheriff Mark Amos said. The county also has six elementary schools.

Colonial Beach—Did not respond.

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