VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Twenty-eight school resource officers patrol the halls of all Virginia Beach Middle and high schools. That number will soon drop by almost half.
“I’m very surprised, disappointed and concerned,” explained school board member Carolyn Weems.
A Virginia Beach School leader sent a letter to school board members.
It reads, “Please be advised that due to a shortage of police officers, the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) has reassigned ten School Resource Officers (SROs) from their current school assignments to other priority duties.”
It goes on to say, “This is in accordance with the VBCPS/VBPD Memorandum of Understanding which states: “SROs will be assigned on a full-time basis to all High Schools and Middle Schools during the school year, as police staffing and workload allows. While the Police Department is committed to the full-time assignment of SROs to all High Schools and Middle Schools, unusual incidents, circumstances or conditions may require the reassignment of those officers to other duties for brief or extended periods of time. Should such reassignment be required, the Principal(s) of the affected school(s) will be notified as soon as possible. Principals were notified today (Friday) and the Office of Safe Schools is working closely with VBPD to ensure that SRO coverage is suitably rotated among schools when we return from Spring Break. Another SRO update is scheduled for the April 27 School Board meeting. As part of the update, Chief Neudigate will share information and answer your questions.”
“My biggest concern is that they are taking them out right now, and it’s a convenient time because the schools aren’t in session full time, they don’t have students there on a full-time basis, but my concern is that they don’t put them back in time for next fall when students will be returning," Parent Becky Hay said.
The division and the police department’s agreement is to assign SROs to work full-time, but they say unusual incidents, circumstances or conditions may require the officers to do other duties for a brief or extended period of time.
A spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Police Department said those ten SROs will be back in the hallways this fall.
“The schools are not in essence losing any School Resource Officers. Every year after school lets out (in June) our SRO's get reassigned to supplement the oceanfront for the summer season," Master Police Officer Linda Kuehn said. "This year, ten of them are starting their temporary reassignments several weeks early to assist with the early crowds at the oceanfront. Those 10 officers will report back to their positions as SROs when schools open back up in the fall.”
“This is an opportunity for us to step up and help the city when they asked for something that they need and we can provide that help,” explained Beverly Anderson.
Some board members said they want a security company or retired police officers to protect the schools.
“I haven’t had time to talk to the superintendent but I am going to draft an email asking him to clarify what we are doing and what we plan to do because I think to remove them from the high school is not the answer,” explained board member Carolyn Weems.
A division spokeswoman said, “Per the joint memorandum of understanding with VBPD, situations may occur where the police department needs to reassign officers temporarily. We continue to work collaboratively with VBPD and our Safe Schools Office to ensure that all VBCPS schools are safe places for learning. An SRO update is scheduled for the April 27 School Board meeting.”