As school safety continues to come to the forefront of national concern, local school districts are taking measures to ensure students’ welfare is protected.
For the 2019-2020 school budget, Williamsburg-James City County schools have approved the addition of four new security officers in the district, said Eileen Cox, the district’s spokeswoman.
“You’ll have another adult in the building who is creating relationships with students,” Cox said. “Having someone focused on building those relationships and creating a comfortable environment where students know that there is a trusted adult is important.”
York County Public Schools added two security officers last year but do not plan to add anymore for the upcoming school year, said district spokeswoman Katherine Goff.
Security officers are different from school resource officers, however.
First, school resource officers are trained by the police department while security officers are hired by the school board and required to be certified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
That means that while school resource officers are employed by the police department, salaries for security officers come from the school’s budget. Each officer works about 190 days a year with a salary between $23,620 and $37,772, Cox said.
Additionally, a school resource officer is employed by the local police department and has the ability to make arrests at the school if needed. There are other differences, but one of the important things is that a security officer places a large emphasis on building student connections.
“With school security officers… there’s curriculum and training that focuses far more on relationship building and getting the repertoire with students,” said James Christian, K-12 school safety coordinator with VDCJS. “Each school might utilize them differently but they’re there for everything from addressing student conduct issues to assisting school administrators.”
A security officer is also on the property at all times while a resource officer might be called to court or other community duties during a day.
Cox said having a security officer on staff provides another person to walk the building check hallways and promote operational safety. School resource officers are assigned to middle and high schools as part of their duties with local law enforcement agencies.
The four high schools in the district each have three security guards in addition the school resource officer, while the middle schools do not currently have any additional security officers, Cox said.
There are a total of five school resource officers provided by the James City County Police Department.
These additional security officers will be placed at the four middle schools in WJCC.
“If you think about it, we have the nine elementary schools feeding into the four middle schools, so we are putting our resources where there are the most amount of students,” Cox said.
Christian said that is a common practice and there are larger schools around the state that might have seven or eight security officers.
While security officers provide different services than school resource officers, during a crisis situation such as an active shooter, a security officer would have the training to ensure proper authorities are called and procedures in place.
But with the additional security, the schools hope to prevent that scenario from ever playing out. The security officers will monitor any visitors to the building and their relationships with the students will help them to have an ear out for any possible threats.
Security officers hired by the districts are not armed, officials said.