Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is undermining a school board’s decision to keep its students and faculty safe.
Earlier this month, the Lee County Virginia School Board unanimously approved a measure to train and arm teachers in all of the county’s schools. While it would have liked to hire student resource officers instead, it simply did not have the funds to pay those additional salaries.
With safety as a priority but with their financial backs against the wall, the decision was ultimately made for them.
“Somebody comes into a school with a gun, what do you do to stop it? Money can’t stop it, talking to them isn’t gonna stop it. This is the only option,” said Mike Kidwell, the chairman of the school board, in an interview with WJHL.
Yet, state leadership doesn’t see it that way. Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran balked at the policy.
“There’s a question to whether or not the law is appropriate,” he said this week. “The Attorney General’s office is looking into that. As a matter of policy, we are encouraging schools to use school resource officers.”
Gov. Northam, a Democrat, agreed, echoing Moran’s remarks about the attorney general investigating to see whether arming teachers comports with state law.
Before voting on the measure Kidwell said the members sought legal advice to make sure everything was aboveboard.
“Several attorneys told us to take this route, it’s the conservator of the peace route, the law does not say anything about a conservator of the peace working in a school,” said Kidwell.
A conservator of the peace is a citizen who is delegated to act as a “law-enforcement officer” under certain circumstances. By giving that designation to certain teachers, along with extensive training, there should be no legal objections.
What’s more is that this approach appears to have the support of the community.
“I feel much safer knowing that my coworkers in the county would have an opportunity to protect our kids,” said Nick Johnson, a Lee County school teacher and parent.
Training for the teachers may begin as soon as October, noted Kidwell.
Virginia has appropriated $1.3 million for SRO programs. Problem is that money has to be spread throughout the entire state. The Lee County School Board applied to receive some of that money but say it won’t be enough to fund even one SRO.