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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that $1.22 million in grant funds have been awarded to 33 localities throughout Virginia. This funding will enable these mostly rural localities to fund new school resource officer (SRO) and school security officer (SSO) positions at public elementary, middle, and high schools. The grants were awarded by the Executive Committee of the Criminal Justice Services Board, on behalf of the Board, at a special meeting earlier today.
“Providing a healthy and safe learning environment in each of our schools is critical to the success of every student in the Commonwealth, no matter who they are or where they live,” said Governor Northam. “I am pleased to see school divisions continuing to partner together to increase safety and enhance school climates, and to continue Virginia's leadership on school safety.”
Funding for the grants came from the state-funded School Resource Officer/School Security Officer Incentive Grant Program. Earlier this year, an additional $1.3 million was appropriated to the program for Fiscal Year 2019 in order to increase the number of schools in the Commonwealth with SROs or SSOs. Grant applications were reviewed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, housed within DCJS.
“The value of SROs and SSOs has been lauded by school and law enforcement professionals across the Commonwealth time and time again,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “We know SROs are integral to maintaining safer environments for our students to learn. They also serve as mentors and educators that foster positive relationships between law enforcement and our youth.”
In response to a solicitation issued in July, DCJS and the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety received 52 grant applications from 48 localities requesting over $2.6 million in grant funds. The 33 grants approved by the Board will fund 30 new SROs and 3 new SSOs in local schools throughout the state: 18 positions at middle and high schools, and 15 positions at elementary schools.
As a recipient of the grant, SROs and SSOs are required to attend a 4 ½ day training on the roles and responsibilities of an SRO/SSO, legal issues in schools, adolescent brain development and trauma, mental health issues, students with disabilities, and more.
“It is my hope that school administrators will attend basic training with their new SRO/SSO,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This training will be helpful and informative for both leadership and school officers as they work together to ensure their schools continue to be safe and supportive learning communities for all students and staff.”
“The Center will continue to do all that it can to support the SRO/SSO programs in the Commonwealth,” said DCJS Director Shannon Dion. “This grant program is just one of many resources available from the Center to SROs, SSOs, and their schools. The Center also provides multi-disciplinary training, technical assistance, and materials, like the Virginia School-Law Enforcement Partnership Model Memorandum of Understanding, to schools and law enforcement agencies.”
Information on the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety and the localities receiving funding is available on the DCJS website, at www.dcjs.virginia.gov.
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