Education

Virginia School District Wanted To Arm Its Teachers, But The Plans Were Rejected

SHUTTERSTOCK/ Kiattipong

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Neetu Chandak Education and Politics Reporter
  • A Virginia school district had plans to arm its teachers, but the plans were rejected by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) on Sept. 12
  • The Lee County School Board approved of the plan in July
  • At least 13 employees were interested in becoming trained

A Virginia school district had plans to arm its teachers as a precautionary step in case of a school shooting, but its plans were rejected by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) on Sept. 12.

“In accordance with the reasoning stated in [Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s] opinion … your application for a special conservator of the peace registration is hereby denied,” a Sept. 12 letter to Lee County Superintendent Brian Austin read, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

Special conservators of the peace are “[a]ny individuals who have been appointed by a Circuit Court to perform only those powers, functions, duties and responsibilities authorized within such geographic limitations as the court may deem appropriate,” according to the Virginia DCJS. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident alien, at least 18 years old and complete application requirements.

Austin’s registration application to the DCJS indicated that at least 13 Lee County employees were interested in becoming a special conservator of the peace, the Post reported. Applicants must go through background screenings, psychological evaluations and training.

The Lee County School Board approved of the plan that would arm teachers in July. The proposal came as an alternative when they realized the Lee County Public Schools district could not afford to hire more armed officers, or school resource officers, for the 11 schools in the district, according to the Post.

Lee County Public Schools has resource officers in four out of the 11 schools, the Post reported. Herring, a Democrat, gave an opinion to DCJS in a statement on Aug. 28 that advised that state law did not allow special conservators of the peace from carrying weapons on school grounds.

Resource officers can carry guns on school grounds, but that privilege does not apply to school officials like teachers and administrators, Herring wrote, according to the Post.

“State law does not allow unqualified personnel to carry guns in schools,” Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said in an email, according to the Post. “We encourage communities to implement the school safety measures that are already authorized by state law, and to utilize the grant funding opportunities.”

Lee County has spent around $19,500 on firearms, ammunition and training, the Post reported.

Current strategies for campus safety in Virginia K-12 schools include campus climate assessments, partnerships between schools and law enforcement, “[e]mphasis on school connectedness,” and “[p]hysical security,” according to a 2016 Threat Assessment in Virginia Public Schools document by the Virginia DCJS.

“Threat assessment in Virginia public educational settings, falls under the umbrella of the Virginia C.A.R.E.S. for Schools and Campuses program which was developed in 2016 to illustrate initiatives by the DCJS Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety to support schools and campuses in enhancing the safety and well-being of educational settings across the Commonwealth,” the DCJS document said.

The issue of arming teachers ramped up after President Donald Trump called on allocating funds toward training and arming teachers in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that took 17 lives on Feb. 14. (RELATED: College Professor Shoots Himself To Protest Trump)

At least 28 states allow security officials to carry firearms on K-12 public school grounds, according to the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming allow school employees to carry on campuses.

Herring, Virginia DCJS and the Lee County School District did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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