Lee County parents concerned about lack of school resource officers
Updated On: Dec 19 2012 01:19:18 PM CST
School security is gaining new attention after a gunman opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school killing 20 children and six adults, and much of the focus is on school resource officers. That's why some Lee County, Virginia parents are asking for change.
Walk the halls of any Lee County, Virginia school and one person you won't find is a school resource officer or SRO.
Before the start of the school year, the Lee County School Board was facing a major financial crisis, and along with closing three small elementary schools, the school board cut the county's only school resource officer, and now some parents want that position back.
"There isn't anyone at the time. If someone walked in they could waylay the area, there's no one to stop them," said Donna Miller, a concerned parent with three children in Lee County schools.
We sat down with Lee County School Board Chair Debbie Jessee. She told us other parents are already asking the board to reconsider SROs, but with the last position costing just under $46,000 a year, it comes down to affordability.
"Right now the projected surplus is only about a little more than $28,000, which is not a whole lot of room to maneuver," Jessee said.
Gaining an SRO could mean losing other programs or positions, but officials at the Lee County Sheriff's Department told us SROs can go a long way when it comes to safety.
"For most people it would be a deterrent knowing there is an armed officer on the scene," said Captain Taylor Scott.
The Lee County School Board would be the ones ultimately making the decision to possibly bring back an SRO, but we learned that could come after many more conversations and meetings.
"[We] also may be looking at other funding sources; if there are any grants out there we could use to maybe hire a school resource officer," said Jessee.
Parents like Miller hope that's the case, because she said lack of money is no excuse when it comes to kids.
"We are in essence putting a price on our children's safety, and we're saying their safety costs just too much for us," said Miller.
We learned the last Lee County school resource officer split his time between the two high schools.
Sheriff’s officials told us Lee County is the only county among surrounding jurisdictions without a school resource officer.
We're also told this issue is likely to come up at the next school board meeting on January 10, though Jessee does stress that schools are still a safe place, even without SROs, and safety is a top priority.
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