Civilian security personnel at public schools in Virginia could carry stun guns and other nonlethal weapons.
Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania County, has introduced a bill for the upcoming General Assembly session that would allow school boards to equip security officers with stun guns, batons and spray devices such as Mace.
The bill would not let those officers—who are employed by school systems, not sheriff’s offices—have actual guns.
“I’m not concerned about them having to Taser a student or something like that,” Cole said. “I’m concerned about an armed intruder.” He added that he thought a bill allowing nonlethal weapons rather than guns had the best chance of passing.
School systems in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties have security officers at every high school.
Cole, who is also Spotsylvania’s deputy county administrator, said his bill is unrelated to that discussion, which he said “highlights the plight” of the security officers. Spotsylvania’s security personnel carry radios but don’t have any weapons, schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said.
“They’re titled as a security officer, but then they have no means to enforce security,” Cole said. “They do kind of just become glorified hall monitors.”
School Board Chairman James Meyer said he’s not sure if school security officers need weapons, based on their job description. “I would just question whether that’s really a necessity,” said Meyer, who said that the School Board has not discussed the issue. “I’ve not heard it expressed as a need.”
He also wondered about liability issues with the proposal and training requirements.
All school security officers must be trained by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Though school security officers can’t currently carry stun guns, state law doesn’t appear to prohibit them from having pepper spray or Mace. The Norfolk school system approved pepper spray for its civilian security officers in 1997 and reaffirmed the policy in 2004, according to The Virginian–Pilot.
Peter Pfotenhauer, president of the Spotsylvania Education Association, said he worries that Cole’s bill could have unintended consequences. For instance, he said, “introducing Tasers or pepper spray to the halls of our schools could tell some children that we expect them to act out in ways that require responses that use the weapons.”
He also wondered how the use of pepper spray in classrooms or hallways would affect innocent bystanders. Many teachers and students have allergies, asthma and other breathing conditions, Pfotenhauer added.