Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office senior staff members laid out Sheriff Michael Chapman’s proposal to put a deputy in all 58 of Loudoun’s elementary schools during a joint committee of the School Board and Board of Supervisors on Thursday.
The proposal had previously only been sketched out in a campaign press release by the Republican candidate for the Chairman At-Large seat on the Board of Supervisors, John Whitbeck, and then in an after-the-fact budget request by Chapman that was scrutinized for its lack of detail. Chapman had not requested the funding for the proposal in the lead-up to county supervisors’ annual county budget deliberations; he defended the idea as “speculative” and an issue for a future board to take up.
The Sheriff’s Office already has eight officers, dubbed Juvenile Resource Officers in the case of elementary schools, who are responsible for several schools, including teaching the DARE program. Sheriff’s Office Lt. Col. Mark Poland explained the job those officers would do if the county spends the money to expand that program. He also laid out a four-year schedule for doing so, with an estimated $12.73 million just in hiring costs to hire 53 new officers and four new sergeants.
“School Resource Officers’ number one goal is to establish and build a relationship with that community, that school, which in my perspective is the perfect representation of their community,” Poland said. “The students, the parents, the workers, the staff—everyone in that school is representing their community.”
According to an item prepared for the meeting, their responsibilities would also include being present for school safety; checking the security measures in the school; being a presence in the classroom to nurture the learning environment; developing learning programs such as bike safety; teaching DARE to fifth grade students; and addressing law enforcement related calls for service.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and committee co-chairman Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) pointed out that there are many pieces to school security.
“I have just read so much information on what school safety means, and when you read, what you realize is school safety is much more than just having officers in schools who are trained and ready,” Randall said. “And we appreciate that, but it’s also things like having enough counselors in there for mental health services.” She pointed out that most school shootings are perpetrated by students at the school.
Supervisors requested the School Board take a position on the proposal before the Board of Supervisors’ next budget deliberations begin in early 2020.