School Safety Initiative Will Expand Nationally Recognized Program
Leesburg, VA – Calling the safety of Loudoun’s school children one of the top priorities for local government, candidate for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors John Whitbeck and Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman announced their proposal to expand the nationally recognized Loudoun School Resource Officer (SRO) program by putting a Sheriff’s Deputy in all 58 of Loudoun public elementary schools.
“We’re fortunate to have one of the best SRO programs in the nation thanks to the great work of Sheriff Chapman and his outstanding team,” said Whitbeck. “Now it’s time to complete the program by expanding it to all of our elementary schools.”
“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished in Loudoun when it comes to school safety and the partnerships my office has with Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and other agencies, but there’s more we can do,” said Chapman. “John Whitbeck’s children attend Loudoun County Public Schools so he sees this as a top priority, and I am grateful he has made a commitment to expanding our excellent SRO program.”
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) was recognized last year as one of nine “Model Agency of the Year” award recipients by the National Association of School Resource Officers. The award recognizes outstanding SRO programs across the nation. Working cooperatively with LCPS, Loudoun now has an SRO posted full-time in 26 high schools and middle schools, as well as six Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officers who assist part-time with teaching and security in elementary schools. The Leesburg Police Department provides SROs for two high schools and four middle schools. All are highly trained, and work closely with school administrators and teachers.
Whitbeck has been a longstanding supporter of the SRO program and has two daughters in Loudoun’s public schools, with a third who will be entering kindergarten this fall. He is also a local attorney who focuses on mental health and helping families.
“Leadership is not just about doing the right thing after there has been a crisis,” said Whitbeck. “It’s also about taking the preventative steps to reduce the chances of a crisis in the future. Sheriff Chapman has been a proactive leader when it comes to keeping Loudoun safe, and he and I want to see even more done to protect Loudoun’s future, specifically our children.”
“Putting an SRO in every elementary school along with other school safety measures initiated by LCPS, local law enforcement and fire and rescue, will clearly demonstrate that Loudoun intends to have the safest schools in the nation,” Chapman said. “This is a non-partisan issue and one that I think we should prioritize immediately.”
“Sheriff Chapman and I believe that the expansion of the SRO program in Loudoun is a comprehensive approach to school safety,” said Whitbeck. “It means a daily presence in our schools to promote safety for our children and our teachers, deterring bullying and the spread of drugs, offering positive role models for our children, and points of contact for our teachers and parents.
Chapman said the plan he and Whitbeck will implement calls for hiring 13 SROs per year for four years for a total of 58, taking advantage of the already six Sheriff’s deputies currently serving elementary schools as Junior Resource Officers/D.A.R.E. instructors. The initial cost of the program during that period will be approximately $10.5 million in start-up costs which can be accomplished with little or no new funding from the Board of Supervisors.
“With John’s commitment to this, and in consultation with the School Board and Superintendent’s office, we can phase-in the hiring and training of deputies to serve as SROs in every elementary school and fund it through the vacancy savings we’ve been experiencing since I took office,” Chapman said. Chapman believes the hiring of SRO officers will not impede his ability to hire and fund other necessary positions and pointed out that LCSO has a vacancy rate that is lower than county government as a whole.
Loudoun would be the first major jurisdiction in Virginia to have an SRO in every public school.