The executive committee for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services awarded $3.47 million to fund school resource officers and school security officers to 53 localities.
The funding covers 77 school resource officer grants and 10 school security officer grants, which will increase the total number of school officers by 10 percent. It will place officers in 45 elementary schools, 17 middle schools and 31 high schools.
School resource officers are armed law enforcement personnel employed by a police department, but deployed in schools. School security officers are employed by the school and are generally unarmed unless they complete a training that certifies them to carry a weapon.
Schools that receive the grant will be required to put these officers through a 4.5 day training course that touches on legal questions, adolescent brain development, trauma and other issues.
“I am pleased to see law enforcement agencies and school divisions taking advantage of this funding to add new or additional school resource and school security officers to their schools,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran said in a news release. “School resource officers and school security officers continue to support a safe environment for students, teachers, and administrators.”
Additional grant funding to provide these resources was made available through an amendment to the School Resource Officer/School Security Officer Incentive Grant Program, which passed through the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this year.
“It is paramount that we continue to make smart investments to keep Virginia schools safe and to create supportive learning environments for our students,” Northam said in a news release. “The school resource officers and school security officers hired through these grants not only make our schools safer, but also enhance our communities by building strong positive relationships with students, faculty, and parents.”
Attorney General Mark Herring recently issued a formal opinion that said that schools throughout the state could not arm teachers, and would instead be required to hire a police officer. The decision was criticized by some and a the Lee County school board filed a lawsuit challenging it, but the lawsuit has since been dropped.