The future of a new draft of the Memorandum of Understanding for Loudoun County Public Schools, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Leesburg Police Department was called into question after the two law enforcement agencies submitted an alternate version last week.
“I do hope we can move forward and come to a consensus soon as the current MOU is from 2015,” Loudoun County School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg District) said in an email to the Times-Mirror after a Tuesday work session.
LCPS has spent nearly two years collaborating with the LCSO, the LPD and community stakeholders to draft a new MOU, a document governing the School Resource Officer Program and which — as of 2020 — must be updated every two years, according to the Code of Virginia.
However, on April 28 the LCSO and the LPD presented the School Board with an alternate version of the new MOU, which Maj. Easton McDonald said was done to keep up with the most recent MOU guidelines from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
According to board documents, the MOU functions “to establish a mutually beneficial framework that schools, community and law enforcement can work within to achieve shared goals.”
The agreement details the various roles and responsibilities of LCSO deputies and LPD officers who participate in the school system’s School Resource Officer and School Security Officer programs, as well as other information about the relationship between the school system and law enforcement.
SROs and SSOs are assigned to public elementary and secondary schools in Virginia to provide law enforcement and security services.
McDonald said during the Tuesday work session that the 20-page LCPS draft of the MOU was based on outdated guidelines from 2017, and at 11 pages, the draft presented by law enforcement was significantly shorter.
The draft created by the LCSO and LPD — which LCSO officials shared with the Times-Mirror on Wednesday — is structured similarly to the original LCPS draft, though many sections have, indeed, been significantly pared down.
The news of a new document drafted without the input of the School Board or any LCPS community members drew confused reactions from the board members present Tuesday, including Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District).
Sheridan and others questioned why the LCSO would go through the process of creating a whole new document rather than make revisions to the existing draft.
The Chairwoman also said the move neglected the efforts of LCPS stakeholders who contributed to the year-plus-long drafting process.
“I feel we were ignored,” she said.
“It was disappointing to see that much of that stakeholder feedback was not included in the surprise, new document shared last week,” Barts said after the meeting.
McDonald said he and the LCSO merely wished for the School Board to take the changes made in the alternate document into consideration before officially signing a new MOU.
In a Wednesday email to the Times-Mirror, LCSO Director of Media Relations and Communications Kraig Troxell said LCSO staff aired their concerns about the outdated nature of the LCPS draft MOU during a workshop last fall.
LCPS officials have yet to respond to the Times-Mirror’s request for comment on Troxell’s claim.
In a prepared statement Wednesday, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) called the discord between the school system and law enforcement “an unnecessary hiccup in what has been an outstanding partnership for decades.”
“We are committed to working through these obstacles to continue to provide the best in services and public safety to Loudoun’s students, parents and school administrators,” he said.
Chief Greg Brown, of the Leesburg Police Department, echoed Chapman’s sentiment, saying in a prepared statement that “The Leesburg Police Department looks forward to drafting a pragmatic MOU of compromise that addresses all stakeholders’ concerns, and is specifically applicable to the continued best interests of the Loudoun community.”
The current LCPS draft is available at bit.ly/2SvriU5.