No new SROs in budget

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Who pays for more seems to be the key

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke wants school resource officers in the elementary schools, but the Board of Supervisors said not in the upcoming fiscal year budget. 

The now-approved fiscal 2020 operating budget did not fund the request for five SROs at an annual cost of $343,400. 

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Clarke said at a recent Board work session that his deputies are in the schools daily and that the principals want the SROs, as do the teachers and students, as well as one School Board member that he did not name, adding that he hadn’t been able to talk to all of them yet. 

Board Chairman William McCarty said that while the sheriff wants the SROs, the School Board has asked about sharing the cost.

This can’t be forced into the schools, said McCarty. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Clarke said school superintendent Dr. James Thornton told him the deputies were his so he didn’t want to make the request. 

If it’s all taxpayer money, what difference does it make, asked McCarty, adding that Clarke needs to go to the School Board, not the superintendent.

“The School Board sets policy, period,” said McCarty.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice wants to revive the now defunct school security task force, while Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie is pushing for an assessment by Homeland Security. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree was also concerned about the county having an established active threat protocol, in addition to the SROs, for schools and other areas where the public gathers. 

A good protocol makes a big difference in the survivability of victims, he said. 

Isle of Wight County School Board Chairman Vicky Hulick said she had talked at length about SROs with Clarke and that she is unaware of anyone on the School Board who is opposed to putting deputies in the elementary schools. 

SROs help build good relationships between students and law enforcement and the community, said Hulick, adding that the issue is where the money for the deputies would come from. 

The question of school security and SROs resumed in earnest last year after a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.

After the shooting, Isle of Wight County schools came up with a plan to add several security measures, to include cameras, an alert system and enhanced entry procedues, as well as door locks. 

The door locks, however, are under dispute between the county’s building inspection office and the state fire marshal’s office. 

Hulick said that SROs in the elementary schools would add a layer of protection in a spread out rural county where response times can get long for certain areas. 

There was a time when SROs were assigned to every Isle of Wight County schools. That was implemented in 2007 after a shooting at an Amish school, and remained until January 2012, when newly elected Sheriff Mark Marshall decided to divert resources to answering calls for service, investigating crime and court services. At the time, Marshall kept SROs assigned to the middle and high schools, and that policy remains today.  {/mprestriction}