HCPS requests $5 million, SROs from county supervisors to increase school security
The funding would be used to upgrade cameras and reinforce school entrances.
HENRICO, Va. - During Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, Henrico Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell presented information to the Board of Supervisors in advance of a request for a budget amendment of approximately $5M to support school safety measures.
The request is for 10 additional school resource officers, in addition to $5 million in funding to increase security measures within the county schools.
By approving the amendment, the Board of Supervisors will expedite the school system’s camera replacement/enhancement plans.
The $5 million was made possible thanks to a surplus from the county budget.
As part of her presentation, Dr. Cashwell let the Board of Supervisors know that she has created a panel of safety experts to visit school campuses across the division to consider three questions:
- What are we doing well in terms of school safety?
- Are there opportunities that we can address related to safety and security?
- What resources might be added or realigned to strengthen and support campus safety and security?
A spokesperson with the school system says this panel is just beginning its work and does not have recommendations at this time. Dr. Cashwell, the County Manager, and Police Chief are co-chairs of a task force looking at violence impacting youth in Henrico County.
Brookland Supervisor Dan Schmitt says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to increase school safety.
“There’s not one magic arrow piece that’s going to solve the school safety problem, but every component we can add, I’m in favor of,” Schmitt said. “In this conversation about school safety, $5 million in school safety is about intruder safety and access control.”
Currently, HCPS has a total of 28 SROs. Schmitt says the additional officers would be repurposed from vacant positions across the county government to ensure that the county’s 70+ schools have adequate coverage.
Schmitt adds that the officers would not be involved with behavior management but would instead be used to help secure school buildings and fill the gaps that may exist with staffing. The officers would also undergo rigorous training to ensure they are qualified to handle a mass emergency in a school.
But Varina District Supervisor Tyron Nelson says he has reservations about putting more school resource officers in schools.
“Police officers there to help secure buildings, great! But beyond that, it makes leery,” Nelson said. “I think we need to be trained SROs, but my concern is always when a school resource officer wants to bring charges when a principal could bring a parent in.”
In his years working in the county government, Nelson says he’s seen school resource officers being used more aggressively in schools with a majority-minority population.
“I don’t think we need to double the number of SROs. I think, right now, what we need to focus on is building relationships with what we have and making sure that we cover as many schools as possible,” Nelson said. “We don’t need to be picking certain schools and adding more based upon parents thinking that because there are 70-80% Black kids in a school, they need more police officers there.”
Schmitt says if the plan is approved, the county immediately installs the necessary technology upgrades before students return to the classroom at the end of the summer.
“If we can figure out a way to keep people out of our schools who don’t belong there or if they do get our schools if we can recognize it immediately, that’s a win for the people that I represent,” Schmitt said.
The Henrico County school board will vote on the measures at their next school board meeting Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
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