CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – The Chesapeake School Board voted to move forward with new policies and regulations that allow the possibility for armed school security officers or SSOs.
“The decision that was made this evening was to really allow school security officers that are our employees to potentially be armed,” said Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton.
Before, only school resource officers, or SROs, could be armed on campus.
The School Board changed the policy wording and included SSOs and SROs to have weapons on school property.
“This opens the door for us to look at creative solutions,” Cotton said. “We can look at hiring people to serve in that capacity, or we could look at the partnership with the sheriff’s office or police department to add additional staff to help with the extra layer of security.”
Dr. Cotton said the SSOs would focus on watching over elementary schools.
“The problem we are trying to solve is just to have more professionals on the ground serving our elementary schools in particular. Tonight was a critical step to moving in that direction,” he said.
Those professionals will need to have a law enforcement background.
“They will have to be highly trained and vetted through the Chesapeake Police Department,” Cotton said. “They would also have to be retired law enforcement within the last 10 years, among other things. There will be a strenuous selection process put in place making sure we had the right people serving in that capacity.”
Chesapeake Public Schools is looking into another safety measure. Cotton said they are working to test metal detectors in three schools.
“We are just going to see how that goes with transitioning students within the school and how much staff is involved and how effective they are,” he said.
Cotton said the new additions, including the potential for armed SSOs, will bolster school security.
“We just want to make sure we are providing the support we need in our schools and that’s a critical piece to that,” he said.
Cotton did clarify that the proposal won’t allow current school security officers to be armed.
Instead, it would allow additional hired employees the possibility of carrying a firearm.
The district has already posted 25 school security officer positions that would work in the elementary schools.