Local leaders weigh in on the future of school resource officers

Posted at 1:13 PM, Jun 18, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The death of George Floyd has many people calling for police departments to restructure the roles of officers, including those inside of schools.

Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) said that he supports de-escalation training and law enforcement reform.

"I think a goal for a lot of us is to ensure that we have as few SRO's [school resource officers] in our schools as possible so that the schools can be laboratories of learning and not some situation where you have armed folks just patrolling," Jones said.

He said locally, we should follow the lead of Charlottesville City Schools (CCS). Last week their school district cut ties with the police department, removing resource officers from schools.

"I think Charlottesville took a really great and bold step by removing them from schools," Jones said. "I certainly think that's the goal over the next three to five to 10 years is to make sure that we don't have to have so many SRO's in our schools, and if we do have to have them, that we have the proper data collection, proper training."

He said recently they have been compiling data to monitor the interactions school resource officers have with students. Jones said that is helpful in creating proper training standards.

However, Virginia Beach School Board Member Victoria Manning disagrees.

She told News 3's Erin Miller, "I do believe that schools would be less safe if we do not have a school resource officer."

She cites what happened in Parkland, Florida, when a gunman opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students. There was a strong push in increasing school safety measures after that 2018 tragedy.

"I think that we need to use those tragedies as an example to help prevent those things from happening in our own community," she said.

She said even recently, the Virginia Beach school district has dealt with some unnerving incidents.

"[It's a matter of public record]. We did have a student that brought a gun and bullets to school last year, so I think that it’s really important that we have training, trained armed security police officers to be able to deal with that. I think that we have a very highly trained police force and we're very fortunate to have them."

Manning said she has received a few emails from parents supporting SRO's, as well as others in support of removing them. However, the majority are in support of keeping them. She said right now the school board has no plans to discuss the matter.

While they have different ideas on how to move forward, both Manning and Jones said student safety is number one.

"The most important job of a school board member, I think, is making sure that we have the safety of our staff and students at the forefront," Manning said.

Jones said, "Making sure our schools are safe is the priority, but we want to make sure that once in the school there's not going to be any sort of issue. [We're also] making sure that the person who is going to be the resource officer or the administrative officer, or whatever you want to call them, has everything they need to assess the situation, but knowing that they've been trained not to use force unless they absolutely have to."

Police reforms are expected to be discussed later this summer when state lawmakers meet for a special session.