By Cindy Bailey
I appreciate parents who attended and spoke at the school public safety forums. One suggestion during the last forum was to hire a director of security. I submit to you that we already have a director of security on the county payroll: Sheriff Timothy C. Carter. however, we need to continue to urge the board to listen, support and utilize the Sheriff's Office to the fullest of their capabilities. Communication and information sharing is one of the best ways we can begin to address our concerns as parents and community as a whole.
In that spirit, on Jan. 8, at the public Board of Supervisors meeting, I urged this board to request and fund additional school resource officers. I also provided this board with a copy of a press release dated Dec. 20 which read in part, "The Virginia House of Delegates propose expanding a School Resource Officer grant program when the General Assembly convenes in January 2013." This document contained important contact information jurisdictions interested in hiring school resource officers in elementary schools, not just middle and high schools as the original grant stated. I strongly suggested this board not wait for the outcome of the three public safety forums to act on this opportunity for security coverage at all our county schools and the funding needed to provide the safest learning environment for our children now.
On Jan. 10, I met with Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Todd Gilbert in Richmond. I asked for their continued support of bills that would provide additional funding for school security. Additionally, I asked our representatives to support more funding for our mental health system to address those concerns, too. The school superintendent has outlined some ideas to include structural redesign of our existing school buildings. These are good ideas, but require too much time for planning and action. We have structural concerns with many of our school buildings now, with no funding to correct them. Our board must act now by requesting and funding additional school resource officers for our schools. Utilize funding from the state grant program.
The county board has the sole power and control of our tax dollars. I urge everyone to attend public Board of Supervisors meetings, write or call your county board member to support security measures you want your tax dollars spent on. The next public board meeting is at 9 a.m. Feb. 12.
One of the fundamental responsibilities of our board is to provide law enforcement protection. The Sheriff's Office was instrumental in equipping our schools with security cameras over the past several years and was tasked initially with monitoring them. Sheriff's personnel are specially trained in "active shooter" and other critical response procedures. The Sheriff's Office already has trained school resource officers on staff and is familiar with our schools' floor plans. Please let your member of the board know that the Sheriff's Office is willing and ready to perform these duties. The use of retired law enforcement is not a new concept. What a welcome addition to our local law enforcement family if we hired these individuals for part-time positions to fill in where we need them. Law enforcement ensures the safety and protection for all county residents. Urge your board member to be more supportive of this fundamental right.
The National Rifle Association is working on a National School Shield Emergency Response Program. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated in Dec. 12 speech announcing the program: "They're our kids. They're our responsibility. And it's not just our duty to protect them--it's our right to protect them." Visit the NRA website for more information.
Concerned parents who attended school public safety forums, you are not alone. There are individuals in this county working everyday to provide a safe and secure community for our children and for all of us. Please thank law enforcement officers when you see them. Please attend county board and school board meetings when you can. Let's all work together to ensure our community stays as secure and safe as possible. You have a voice; you are the voice for your children. We know what needs to be done. We must let our county board hear our voices.
Cindy Bailey of Woodstock is a retired captain of the Shenandoah County Jail.