Virginia Republicans are planning to boost funding for the school resource officer grant program, a move aimed at placing more certified police in the state school system.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch
, state House Republicans made the announcement Thursday as Gov. Bob McDonnell called on the state to observe a moment of silence Friday morning for the 20 children and 6 adults killed last week in the Newtown, Conn., Sandy Hook
Elementary School shooting.
"Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of elementary schools [in Virginia] have full-time school resource officers (SROs), many of which serve multiple schools," state Del. Beverly J. Sherwood said in a statement.
A number of Democrats are also expected to join in the effort to appropriate more funding, a move that is also supported by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
House Speaker William J. Howell, also supports expanded funding, calling it "a critical step toward making sure all of our schools are as safe as possible.”
The grant program, which is run by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, was designed in 1999 to help local school districts add certified police officers to their payrolls to fill a number of duties, including dealing with safety and security issues.
According to a 2011 survey cited by the Times-Dispatch, the state has 513 SROs now serving in its 1,980 public schools. But many of them are shared between schools.
Gov. McDonnell raised the possibility of earlier this week of allowing more school officials to carry guns, saying it was something that ought to be discussed in the wake of the Newtown killings.
As part of an effort to address school safety issues, McDonnell has formed a task force that includes a mental health work group. It will be chaired by Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Times Dispatch reported.
A spokesman for Cuccinelli, the likely Republican gubernatorial nominee in next year's election, said arming SROs and “other properly trained personnel who choose to carry firearms” should be part of any discussion on school safety.
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