VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As some school resource officers in Virginia Beach were transferred to help ensure safety at the Oceanfront this summer, the city school division is filling in the gaps with armed school security officers.
Virginia Beach School Board member Victoria Manning said Virginia Beach City Public Schools has worked to get school security officers (SSOs) to replace the school resource officers (SROs) who were reassigned to patrol.
SSOs are retired law enforcement officers who are trained for school security. Virginia state law permits the officers to work full-time in school safety positions.
Manning said she was notified this week that there are already five SSOs who had been trained through the Virginia Beach Police Department to be SSOs. Those five will start within days. More may be trained in the “near future.”
“I would like to commend VBCPS Superintendent and our COO and his staff for thinking outside the box to provide more security for our students and staff,” Manning wrote on Facebook.
In April, VBPD and VBCPS released a joint statement saying SROs in some schools would be reassigned to patrol — still staying in the area around their assigned schools — temporarily.
“Along with the promise of warmer weather comes an influx of people and activity to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. This is exciting and certainly welcome as families and businesses finally can plan for a post-COVID world,” the statement read. “With good that comes from participating in all that our city has to offer, sometimes there can be unintended consequences that come with large crowds.”
The division and police department also reassigned SROs to patrol in April 2021. The reassignments happen every year, but came a little early in 2021 in an effort to offset a shortage of police officers.
A VBCPS spokesman declined to say whether all schools have SROs — however, Manning said all middle schools and high schools have one SRO — and declined to provide the names of the schools that currently have police officers.
“We do not publicly share information that could result in a security vulnerability,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said which officers would be moved to patrol was determined through a collaboration between the police department and school division.
In a Facebook post, state Del. Tim Anderson (R-Virginia Beach) said he spoke with VBPD Chief Paul Neudigate, who said the city has 28 assigned SROs. Just eight of those were reassigned.
Following the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school this week, VBPD is also increasing police presence periodically at all schools when “beat officers are free from calls for service,” Anderson said.