~Concerns were raised at the CCPS School Board meeting in light of the national rise in school shootings~
By Pam Dudding
At the June School Board meeting, citizen Brett Stamper spoke on his views on the importance of having a School Resource Officer on campus.
He spoke of the fatal shooting in other schools, killing and injuring students. He also spoke of students in Roanoke and Salem who had drawn a map of the school and posted on social media.
“We have to remember that Roanoke and Salem are only 35 minutes away. Just because we are a small town, we are not immune to extreme violence,” he said.
He spoke of the recent school shooting dominating the news in Uvalde, Texas, where the doors were propped open, giving easy access to anyone who wished to enter. He questioned if “history will repeat itself or get worse if the security of our school doesn’t change.”
“I spoke with students and faculty about the recent shooting at the Craig Botetourt Co-op in 2018, asking about the events that happened in the school while on lockdown during the morning hours in which the active shooter was on the loose,” Stamper shared.
Stamper said that in December 2021, he requested information on the school’s contingency plan.
“Too many times I have heard it is not the school’s job of hiring. I, along with other parents, do not accept this answer anymore,” he declared. “The school must work with the local Sheriff’s Department. There is nothing that you can talk about or spend money on that is more important than this.”
He also suggested the school supplement this position so that there would always be an incentive to keep the job secure.
“We as a community should make sure that this happens at all costs,” he added. “If someone is going to risk their life for the safety of our children and faculty in our school system, they should be well compensated for it.”
He also suggested continuous training for the teachers and staff for a Crisis Response Plan, quoting the Virginia School system’s mandatory drills. Trace Bellassai shared that the Board does speak quite often with Sheriff Trevor Craddock regarding the situation.
He explained that “It is less of a funding situation, as the sheriff does not have a pool of applicants and is having a difficult time filling his needed positions.”
Bellassai added that they have also talked about forming a Safety Committee in the school, including the sheriff and S.W.A.T. team members in the near future. Bellassai noted that the state of Virginia does not allow anyone else other than law enforcement officers to fill that position, however the Board has considered penning a letter or a resolution. “We are requesting our legislators look at that,” he said.
Superintendent Jeanette Warwick added, “We are working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sheriff’s department, including the responsibilities of the sheriff’s department and the school division. We are hoping to have someone from the officers during lunch times to be in the cafeteria with the students, to have a presence and they are in support of that.”
She noted that none of the sheriff’s current staff have the training to be a Resource Officer. They are also organizing an internal committee which would include mental health assistance. Bellassai added, “We have talked about working with Emergency Services to do drills over the summer when the kids are not here, which would be a really good training.”
Stamper added that he and others in the community would be willing to help.
“As we continue to plan with the Safety Committee, we will reach out to the community to see who would want to help,” Warwick added.