ROANOKE Co., Va. - Starting this fall, school resource officers will be in Roanoke County elementary schools for the first time. This comes following approval of the plan by the school board at its meeting Thursday night.
Roanoke County said less than 25 percent of elementary schools in Virginia have school resource officers, so it is happy to be leading the way. And while not everyone is in agreement about guns in schools, county leaders said this is the right decision for our kids.
In the county elementary schools, police are seen every now and then. Patrol officers have recorded more than 800 safety checks throughout the year, but now, an officer in an elementary school is about to become a much more familiar sight.
"It hasn't been that there has been no presence in the elementary schools, but it has been based on what the SROs in what the other schools could do," Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall said.
Historically, county police have staffed school resource officers in county middle and high schools. The Roanoke County Sheriff's Office has now dedicated two full-time deputies to handle the elementary schools.
"It's a great thing, it's not something obviously that they're going to be in every school at all times, but it certainly is a step in the right direction to add to our security resources," Roanoke County acting superintendent Ken Nicely said.
The board approved the two deputies to cover the 16 county elementary schools at its meeting Thursday night. The county school safety advisory committee went a step further, recommending permanent, armed security comprised of men and women with law enforcement and/or military training at every school, and the board agrees.
"This is inadequate, we appreciate the (work you're doing), I know it's not your fault, but I want it to be known, we need more," Roanoke County school board member Tim Greenway said.
Some people have argued for less police presence in schools, claiming they're ineffective and make things less safe. School leaders, on the other hand, said the direction they're moving in is the one that's best for our kids.
"Particularly as we talk about the history that we had in the middle and high schools, there is a need for law enforcement presence in those schools."
The school board also approved the release of its safety and emergency response plan. It's a cut down version of the internal version that removes confidential security plans and measures while still allowing a big picture view. You can read the document here.
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