School Security issues continue to make their way through the General Assembly. Currently, two types of school security personnel are used in Virginia Schools – School Resource Officers (SROs) and School Security Officers (SSOs). According to the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety (VCSCS), School Resource Officer is defined in § 9.1-101 of the Code of Virginia as “a certified law enforcement officer hired by the local law-enforcement agency to provide law-enforcement and security services to Virginia public elementary and secondary schools.” SROs are supervised by local law enforcement agencies and work in partnership with local schools. School security officers are employed by local school boards and are primarily charged are often used when the situation deems an additional security presence is merited yet the full functions of a School Resource Officer may not be suitable. School Security Officer is an individual who is employed by the local school board for the singular purpose of maintaining order and discipline, preventing crime, investigating violations of school board policies, and detaining students violating the law or school board policies on school property or at school-sponsored events and who is responsible solely for ensuring the safety, security, and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors in the assigned school.
We have previously reported on two sets of bills that pertain to the hiring and training of school security personnel. The first set of bills have passed both chambers and are headed for a conference committee to reconcile differences in language:
SB 1130 (Locke) originally required each school resource officer (SRO) to be trained and certified by the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, which is not current practice and expanded the topics on which school security officers are required to be trained. VACo initially expressed concerns that additional training requirements would impose an unfunded mandate on localities and worked with the patron and members of the subcommittee to amend language allowing for more permissive training standards to be determined by the Criminal Justice Services Board, and for additional local training options.
HB 2609 (Jones, J.C.) also establishes compulsory training standards for school resource officers as established by the Criminal Justice Services Board. VACo also initially expressed concerns about any potential unfunded mandates that could result from the bill.
The second set of bills create a new category of school security personnel:
SB 1207 (Stuart) / HB 2142 (Thomas) provide additional local flexibility to localities struggling to hire for lack of funds or available qualified labor School Resource Officers (SROs) or School Security Officers (SSOs), by creating a new class of school security personnel called “school protection officers.” These individuals must be retired law-enforcement officers hired on a part or full-time basis by local enforcement agencies to provide school security. The Criminal Justice Services Board is directed to establish minimum training standards for these individuals, that includes local options. The House version of the bill passed both chambers, and the Senate version awaits a final vote on the floor of the House.
VACo will continue to track these bills and advocate for local flexibility and against unfunded mandates as it pertains to school security personnel.
VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett