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‘We owe it to the citizens to protect our children’: Franklin County leaders look to add more school resource officers

Supervisors say more needs to be done to increase safety

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – There are more local efforts this week to keep kids safe at school and they could lead to some students seeing more armed officers walking the halls.

Some Franklin County leaders are looking to add to the number of armed school resource officers in an effort to be ready for, and discourage, a school shooter situation.

Supervisor Ronald Mitchell Jr. is leading the charge. He proposed the idea at a meeting last week. School shootings around the country have motivated him to take action.

“It’s really important to me that we prepare that if the worst-case scenario ever happened, we’re ready for it,” Mitchell said.

Supervisors do not want to arm teachers, a move being discussed in other localities around the country.

Instead, they want to follow many districts around southwest Virginia in having at least one school resource officer in every school.

Right now, between Franklin County sheriff’s deputies and officers from other departments, there are four school resource officers staffed at Franklin County High School and two at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, according to supervisors.

Deputies on patrol cover the 13 elementary schools, making visits multiple times a day.

Mitchell and others want to have a constant presence in those buildings.

“We owe it to the citizens to protect our children,” he said.

One local parent said she’s worried about the safety of her two young girls due to school shootings in America over the past few years.

“Yes. It’s amazing how it’s come to that. When we were younger it was not an idea at all,” Franklin County resident Sarah Short said.

Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton has been supporting getting more deputies in schools. His office said he continues to do so.

"Sheriff Overton fully supports any efforts to keep our children safe,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The changes would have a big price tag for the county of about $750,000.

To make it possible, supervisors are discussing temporary funding, like using deputies’ overtime, and a real estate tax increase. Despite inherent concerns over a tax increase, they believe if people can understand what the money is being used for, they’ll back it.

“In being able to demonstrate what the taxes are going for, that gets you a long way in terms of public support,” supervisor Lorie Smith said.

Supervisors are also discussing a phased-in approach to the end goal.

The board will still have to approve any plans before they’re put into action. Mitchell says those conversations have already begun.