VIRGINIA (DC News Now) — With the first day of school just days away for students in Northern Virginia, parents are asking: is it safe to send my child back in light of the recent shootings? Parents want to know what their school districts do for their safety once students walk through those doors.
DC News Now took a look at some of the largest school districts in the DMV and the topic of arming school resources has been an option but also an ongoing debate.
In 2022 alone, there have been 27 school shootings according to Education Week which has tracked this data since 2018. In 2021, education week tracked 34 school shootings, 10 shootings in 2020, and 24 shootings in 2018 and 2019. The statistics are raising concerns among parents. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares says he supports the implementation of armed school resource officers. But not everyone agrees.
More school resource officers will equate to safer schools, a strategy Va. Attorney General Miyares has consistently supported.
In a statement to DC News Now, the spokesperson for Attorney General Miyares said, “The Attorney General supports armed SROs – who are typically former or active law enforcement – because if there is an emergency, they would be prepared to react.”
By law, Virginia schools that do not have an SRO must now assign an officer for special training, a strategy Montgomery County Public School Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight agrees with.
“We want there to be positive engagement with our police but we also acknowledge that they have training and skills and it’s appropriate to call upon them because they are experts when we are in serious safety situations,” Dr. McKnight said.
In contrast, by the summer of 2025, DC Public Schools will phase out officers from their schools. A few weeks ago, Scott Ziegler, Superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools, told parents that putting more armed officers in schools was not the answer.
“There are suggestions by some that we need to harden our schools that we need to make our schools less attractive targets — putting armed teachers in there, by putting fences and barbed wire and all kind of things around the school,” Ziegler said. “And while we do everything we can to keep the physical plant of the school safe, I don’t think that you as parents nor us as educators want to turn our schools into low-security prisons.”
The Commonwealth of Virginia is set to put $22.5 million dollars over the next two fiscal years towards SRO incentive grants to hire more officers. This is estimated to fund positions for over 350 new officers according to the Attorney General’s Office.