School district votes to become first in Virginia to arm teachers

A school board in Virginia has voted to arm teachers as the school district would become the first in the commonwealth to have teachers with guns in the classroom.

A five-member school board in Lee County in Southwest Virginia unanimously voted earlier this month to allow a number of teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons or store them in safes on school property.

Teachers with military background would be given preference, and training similar to law enforcement would take place. They would also have to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation.

The Virginia Department of Education was reportedly not consulted about Lee County's plan to arm teachers. It is expected to go into effect this September. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has also denounced the school district's plan.

In Northern Virginia, the Fairfax County Public Schools' Office of Safety and Security released its report that evaluates current security procedures with recommendations for improvements. However, it does not include arming teachers.

"I think Lee County is probably a little bit different than Fairfax County," said Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz. "It's kind of the tale of two Virginias and where there may be support for arming teachers in one county, I don't see there is a support for that here in Fairfax County."

Fairfax County's school board is scheduled to vote on a funding request for eight positions to enhance security training in schools along with 18 other positions, mainly psychologists and social workers, to tackle mental health support for students.

The school district is also set to vote on funding to replace classroom door locks across its campuses.

As for arming teachers and staff members in Fairfax County, Schultz does not see it happening.

"I do think that it's unlikely in Fairfax County, but I do think that there needs to be support for consideration of all other options," she said. "Everything needs to be on the table and everybody needs to come to the table, and I really don't like the vilifying of either school resource officers who are police officers in our community nor of safety and security personnel. I want to make sure that people know those are valued members of our staff and our school communities."