Richmond school resource officers prepare for return of students

Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 2:17 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2022 at 3:28 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Outside John Marshall High School on Richmond’s northside, Richmond Officer Virgil Burton says his job is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and students.

He’s one of a dozen school resource officers sworn to protect the city’s middle and high schools.

“We also carry the role as counselor, advisor, mentor for the kids. We just want to make sure that we’re here and we’re accessible and visible for the kids because, for the most part, it really is about the trust,” said Burton.

Burton says online threats, including cyberbullying and harassment, are the top issues facing children these days.

As students return, officers will ensure students are aware of the consequences of content they may put on social media platforms.

“Because it can turn into a situation where it can incite an incident in the community, or it could straight out turn into cyberbullying or harassment, which are really really hot topics today in schools,” said Burton.

The school resource officer says a lot of his job is teaching students conflict resolution, so they don’t turn to violence as an answer.

School resource officers visit elementary schools in the city on a case-by-case basis.

“There are deficiencies in regard to safety and security in our buildings,” said Jonathan Young, Richmond School Board.

RPS is working on a safety audit that will need to be sent to the state. The report is expected to include the exact number of cameras that don’t work, which is unknown.

“This is our first and foremost responsibility as a school district, and we still have some room for improvement in regards to keeping our students safe,” said Young.

That audit should be done by next week, with students returning on Aug. 29.