Chesapeake School Board Considers Metal Detectors and Arming School Security Officers

VA CHESAPEAKE — For the upcoming school year, the Chesapeake School Board is trying to implement even additional safety measures, such as a pilot program for metal detectors and perhaps arming School Security Officers (SSOs).

Following a 6-year-old youngster shooting his teacher in Newport News, bomb threats in Chesapeake, and students carrying firearms into classrooms all around Hampton Roads, the discussion has continued.

During a special meeting on Tuesday night, Dr. Jared Cotton, the superintendent, sought input from the school board on their future actions.

“If we wanted to explore this extra layer of protection,” he said, “we need some direction.”

Penny Schultz, assistant director of school safety, said they are obtaining funding to hire 25 extra school security personnel and putting a small-scale metal detector pilot program into place.

Chesapeake School Board Considers Metal Detectors and Arming School Security Officers

After receiving cash for those detectors from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, they will enter Oscar Smith High School, Joliff Middle School, and Greenbriar Intermediate School.

“Regionally and nationally, we have students bringing things into school at any age, so we want to see how practical it is, how effective it is at all levels, so we can determine if it’s something we want to invest in in the future,” said Cotton.

Kim Scott, a school board member, said she preferred to see money spent in other ways.

“I would prefer to see funds go towards implementing SSOs that are eligible to be armed rather than metal detectors. I think metal detectors are a false sense of security.”

They ultimately chose to proceed with the trial program. That prompted the board’s following action: research the requirements for allowing SSOs to carry weapons.

“I definitely think exploring this is a great idea and I support it 100%,” stated Dr. Brittany Walker, a school board member.

According to Schultz, many steps are involved in approving that, including obtaining specific certifications from law enforcement organizations, giving cash for wages, equipment, and training, and revising school board regulations.

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“Right now, that policy prohibits any employee of a school board member from carrying a firearm on school property,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The distinction between an SSO and a school resource officer must be understood (SRO). An SRO is an on-site law enforcement officer, whereas the school board employs an SSO.

Ultimately, the board determined that it was something they should investigate. “I definitely sense the community wanting an armed presence,” said Scott.

“They’re also going to serve a very valuable purpose if, God forbid, the worst happened,” Member of the school board Thomas Mercer concurred.

Again, no rules have been finalized, but the board gave Superintendent Cotton and his team the go-ahead to continue the process and research what it would entail and how they would pay for it.

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