RICHMOND, VA –– Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Majority Leader M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Delegate Beverly J. Sherwood (R-Winchester), Chair of the House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee, announced Thursday that Republicans in the House of Delegates will propose expanding a school resource officer grant program when the General Assembly convenes in January.
“The tragedy in Connecticut is heartbreaking. As the Newtown community begins a healing process that will last longer than we can ever imagine, our thoughts naturally turn to our own children,” said Speaker William J. Howell. “We must look closely at everything we can to make sure our children, schools and communities are safe. This includes evaluating school safety, our mental health laws and services, and our gun laws.”
“Today, we are announcing our intent to expand funding for a school resource officer grant program to encourage the creation of school resource officer positions in Virginia elementary schools. This is a critical step toward making sure all of our schools are as safe as possible,” said Speaker Howell.
The already-existing grant program promotes establishing school resource officers. The program will be expanded through an amendment to the biennial budget.
“Classrooms are a place for developing a love for learning, not violence. We must do everything we can to keep it that way,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox. “School resource officers play a vital role in promoting safety and educating our young people about drugs, violence and a host of other issues. They are often community members whom children look to as mentors and role models. Fully-integrated school resource officers are the eyes and ears of our schools. Their awareness and training adds an important safety dimension to our school systems that cannot be understated.”
House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Beverly J. Sherwood pointed to the success of the program in creating school resource officer positions in the past.
“When this program was originally established, the intent was to promote establishing school resource officers in high schools and middle schools. Today, 80 percent of Virginia’s high schools and middle schools have full-time school resource officers. Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of elementary schools have assigned school resource officers, many of which serve multiple schools,” said Delegate Sherwood. “The expansion of this program will encourage the hiring of full-time school resource officers in Virginia elementary schools.”
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