RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With many school districts resuming school in August, parents have begun to re-enter the world of pencils, paper and school buses — but this year, something else is top of mind: school security.
“Uvalde is very close to home.” Meredith Miller, a new Central Virginian and mother to her 8-year-old daughter, said. “We lost friends and family that were involved as well.”
After being so directly impacted by the tragic Texas school shooting, Miller fears sending her young daughter back into a school environment. She was quick to schedule a conference with school administrators immediately upon moving to her new community in Spotsylvania County.
“I think the overall feeling in Uvalde, and the feeling I have, is that nothing is changing,” Miller said. “Nothing is different.”
The state General Assembly rejected a proposal requiring all schools in Virginia to have a School Resource Officer (SRO) responsible for security. According to Virginia lawmakers, 705 schools in the state do not have one of these individuals. A new Virginia law now requires schools without an SRO to work with local law enforcement to designate an officer to get special training and serve as a point of contact. But local parents feel that solution, isn’t really a solution — and that it’s missing key elements.
Ginny Dougherty, a local parent with older children out of grade school, agrees there should be a change. She said that people with more training, like retired military personnel, should be recruited to help school guards.
“If you’re well trained, you know how to use a firearm,” Dougherty said.
Virginia lawmakers have enacted additional measures to provide layers of protection for students in the upcoming school semester. These include increased law enforcement involvement in security planning processes and mandating that schools have a detailed floor plan to be utilized in case of emergency. Schools also are required to have threat assessment teams, crisis management plans and an annual school security audit. But parents said they want to see more tangible protective measures.
“This whole ‘hug your kid extra hard before you drop them off in school’ is not cutting it for me right now,” Miller said.
Some parents suggest focusing on preventative efforts, rather than response ones, and emphasized mental health concerns can be found at the bottom of many violent scenarios.
“If you’re not looking at what is causing the problem, you’re already behind the eight ball,” Dougherty said.
Overall, parents are still hopeful change can, and will, be made prior to their children re-entering classrooms.
“We have cured polio, we have put a man on the moon,” Miller said. “Surely, this is something we can put our efforts towards and figure out. We have to. We cannot keep doing business as usual and watching kids get shot.”