Lynchburg group calling to remove school resource officers

School board members will read letters, address concerns in meeting Tuesday night

LYNCHBURG, Va. – On Tuesday night one group will be able to make its pitch to the Lynchburg School Board about why the division should no longer have school resource officers.

Due to the coronavirus, the school board is asking Reason Chandler, with Virginia Organizing, and Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema to send letters in via email explaining why school resource officers should go or stay.

“Part of my letter also asks the school board and Dr. Edwards, who is our superintendent, to maybe hand this off to our equity task force,” said Chandler, who’s also a Lynchburg dad asking the school board to remove all school resource officers.

“There’s a disparity in the way the ethnic and maybe the mentally-challenged kids are handled or disciplined by the SROs and to include the administration of the schools,” Chandler said.

Police Chief Ryan Zuidema disagrees and wants his officers in the buildings to develop positive relationships with students.

Right now, there are a total of five school resource officers spread out in the middle and high schools.

“We need to have those types of interactions with these young men and women interacting with our officers not just when something bad happens but they’re there in other times too. It’s really important to build those relationships,” Zuidema said.

Chandler said there are other options and believes the funds should be used to bring in mental health counselors instead.

“The SROs cannot, they’re not really equipped to help them in that area. They’re not equipped to even recognize signs of trouble as it pertains to students’ psychological state,” Chandler said.

Zuidema said that with the rise of deadly school shootings across the country it’s another reason why he wants to keep his officers on campus.

Chandler said he understands that logic, but there’s a lot more to be said on this topic and he wants to have a conversation.

After speaking with both men, they said they are willing to sit down and talk about the issue.

But first, school board members are expected to read their letters out loud to the public on Tuesday evening.