Richmond, Virginia (WRIC) – Gov. Glen Yangkin wants every school to have a law enforcement officer, but a bill that requires locals to take action could meet bipartisan opposition in the Senate.
Currently, 705 Virginia schools, or 38 percent, do not have school resources staff, according to delegate Karen Greenhall (R-Virginia Beach). She reported that it is 596 primary schools, 30 secondary schools, 30 secondary schools and 49 others.
Legislation authored by Greenhalgh that a party vote was held in the House of Delegates this week, each school board must enter into a cooperation agreement with the local law enforcement agency to hire at least one school resource officer (SRO) or unarmed school security officer (SSO) in each building. The two schools, which are adjacent to combined facilities, would be allowed to co-operate, as is sometimes done with nurses.
“We’re trying to make it as flexible as possible so school boards and communities can do what’s best for their students, and we’re just trying to make sure they’re all safe,” Greenhall said.
Greenhall said schools that sign the agreement by August 2022 will meet the requirement, even if they initially struggle with recruiting officers.
“The goal is to try to take positions as soon as possible, but no school will be punished because they failed to get enough officers in their schools. This was one of the problems that arose because the SROs are law enforcement agencies and these positions are difficult to fill, ”Greenhall said.
Governor Yangkin celebrated the passage of the bill, which was included in its legislative agenday Post to Facebook earlier this week. He said: “Today at #SRODay I am proud to announce that Delegate Karen Greenhall’s HB873 bill, a bill to place a school resource officer in each school, has passed the House of Representatives! We are very grateful for all the work that school staff do every day to ensure the safety of our students. ”
Senator David Souterlain (R-Roanoke) said the mandate would put a financial strain on the area, including the rural counties he serves.
“I’m looking forward to working with the governor to find ways to allocate resources to this, but I can’t vote for a mandate without funding,” Sutterlane said.
Senator Bill DeStef (R-Virginia Beach), who introduced the overthrown bill, said it had included amendments to the budget that direct the state to cover all expenses on a permanent basis. He said that if the money had not been approved, it would have gone differently.
“Anyone who says it’s an unfunded mandate is inaccurate,” DeStef said.
The amendment to Governor Yangkin’s budget will not cover the total cost of additional SROs or SSOs, Greenhall said. If approved, it will yield $ 51.6 million over two years in one-time funding of incentive grants that require a local match, which is adjusted according to solvency.
Counted in the Department of Criminal Justice that the average annual cost of employing a new full-time SRO is $ 125,000, including salary, benefits, equipment, vehicle and training.
According to A statement on the impact of the bill on the house, “Actual costs can vary widely and depend on the area in which the SRO operates … Any actual fiscal impact on local school units has not been determined.”
Some argue that the money is best used for support staff, such as school counselors and social workers. At least two school departments in Virginia have decided to remove SROs from schools amid broader calls for police reform.
Ingris Moran, the lead organizer of the youth group Tenants and Workers United, is one of the supporters who support this push.
“The presence of school police also feeds this pipeline from the school to the prison, where colored students are likely to be criminalized in the school system,” Moran said. “Having the police will only cause intimidation and fear.”
Greenhall said the bill does not provide a clear penalty for settlements that refuse to comply.
Additional statement on the impact of the bill“No school unit that refuses or fails to qualify is eligible for grants from the Commonwealth, the Board of Education or the Department of Education.”
Greenhall clarified that the goal is to prevent areas that have not concluded an agreement from receiving grant money specifically for SROs and not all government grants. She said she would be open to language that makes it more understandable.