Sheriff Mike Chapman

Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R)

Expanding the school resource officer program into Loudoun County elementary schools was a chief topic of discussion during a June 13 meeting between the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, School Board and local law enforcement leaders.

The issue has been a hot topic in recent months, with Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), her Republican challenger John Whitbeck and Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) all expressing support for more school resource officers.

County officials are not expected to add the expansion into the fiscal 2020 budget, which starts July 1. The program could be added for fiscal 2021 depending on budget direction from the School Board.

Over the next four years, the expansion is estimated by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to cost between $11.5 and $12.7 million, according to a presentation during the meeting.

Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said if the School Board can lay out its request for the fiscal 2021 budget, the Board of Supervisors can then determine the next step.

“I think there will be widespread support for this, but we need that to come from the schools to the county side of the government for us to do that, since we make the budget appropriations,” Buona said.

The Loudoun County School Board approves a budget for the school system, but it's up to county supervisors to determine the funding allocation for Loudoun County Public Schools.

In March, the Board of Supervisors tabled funding the SRO expansion in the county's fiscal 2020 budget. The board voted 4-3-2, with some members noting the School Board had not taken a position on the matter.

Catoctin Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) moved to table the matter. He was joined by supervisors Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Buona. Supervisors Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) were absent from the meeting, and Randall opposed tabling along with Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).

Randall said expanding officers into the elementary schools should be a top priority.

The vote action came shortly after self-professed members of the Black Panther Party entered Madison's Trust Elementary School in Ashburn on March 1 with neither a juvenile or school resource officer present at the school. After a gym lesson during which students act as slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad for Black History Month, members of the group said they wanted to know how the school was addressing race-related issues.

Sheriff Chapman said a deputy responded to the school in about one minute, and no injuries were reported.

Under the sheriff’s office proposal are two four-year plans. One plan, estimated at $12.73 million, includes 52 LSCO elementary school resource officers, one high school officer for the upcoming Lightridge High School and four SRO sergeants.

The second plan, estimated at $11.59 million, includes 45 LCSO elementary school resource officers, eight Leesburg Police Department officers and four LCSO elementary school SRO sergeants. The plan would also add an officer to Lightridge High School. The cheaper proposal would be jointly funded by the county and Town of Leesburg at 70 and 30 percent, respectively.

“This is an all-in problem,” Randall said. “Everyone has to be in for the solution. It’s not just a one-size-fits-all for any community or sometimes for any school.”

Whitbeck, Randall's political opponent, has called for SROs in all elementary schools.

On the issue of school safety, Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams said the district has adopted an anti-cyberbullying curriculum and engaged with students to promote mental wellness. Additional school system funding over the years has also helped the expansion of unified mental health teams at the high school and middle school levels, along with an effort to expand social emotional learning.

Later this summer, Loudoun schools will be welcoming directors of communications and security to help address threat assessments and engage with the community on safety matters, according to School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District).

Morse said, “We feel very confident that as we look at this holistically that we are addressing each piece of this separately, but together it’s providing much better security for the school system.”

(8) comments

David McKinley

It's LCPS--with our current "leadership", they should focus on protecting kids from the administration and teachers if anything!

scottva

Additional security protecting kids/staff from outside threats isn't a bad idea. However, seems to me in the past (45) days there's been 14+ incidents involving internal threats (LCPS staff), so the the criminals are already inside the school. What's LCPS's solution for this? How about kicking Doc Williams to the curb for starters and then take a very close look at board members. Security is not a singular solution but a layer approach. Add this to your agenda LCPS, until then, as Chris McHale said, window dressing.

swampfiller

I would be just as concerned with that many guns running loose in our schools. Is it improved safety or dangerous?

Loudoundad

As my teenager told me, "why make our schools look even more like prisons to five and six year olds?"

Chris McHale

I'm truly torn on this issue. Yes everyone agrees that the safety of our children is #1. But does expanding this program really accomplish that or is it window dressing?

AreYouKidding

It is window dressing and empire building for our sheriff. Unfortunately what often happens in these circumstance is that the assigned law enforcement officers start to insert themselves into what should be normal school discipline situations and suddenly you have 2nd and 3rd graders, usually those with brown or black skin, being questioned like criminals and arrested.

RandomName2019

I'm not sure that I would have taken it to the conclusion that you did regarding race, but I absolutely agree that our law enforcement personnel are not trained to operate as security guards at schools.

David McKinley

Good administrators tell them to wait outside in their cars and call them only if needed, not strut around the hallways like stormtroopers.

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