|The House Judiciary Committee, meeting Wednesday, adopted House Bill 4851, which provides procedures for county boards of education, public charter schools, and private or religious schools for employing security officers.
The legislation, versions of which have been considered in past sessions, defines a school security officer as an “individual who is employed by a local school board, public charter school, or private or religious school for the singular purpose of maintaining order and discipline, preventing crime, investigating violations of the policies of the school board, public charter school, or private or religious school, and reasonably detaining students committing an offense that constitutes a breach of the peace on school property, school buses, or at school-sponsored events and who is responsible solely for ensuring the safety, security, and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors in the assigned school.”
The bill directs the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Correction, in consultation with the Division of Protective Services School Safety Unit, is to establish “compulsory minimum standards for employment, job-entry, in-service training curricula, and certification requirements for school security officers … with training standards … (specific) to the role and responsibility of school security officers,” including:
· relevant state and federal laws;
· school and personal liability issues;
· security awareness in the school environment;
· mediation and conflict resolution, including de-escalation techniques such as a physical alternative to restraint;
· disaster and emergency response;
· awareness of systemic and individual racism, cultural diversity, and implicit bias;
· working with students with disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, mental health needs, substance use disorders, and past traumatic experiences; and
· student behavioral dynamics, including child and adolescent development and brain research.
The Division of Protective Services School Safety Unit is granted authority to establish an advisory committee to assist in developing the standards and certification requirements for school security officers.
Additionally, the Division of Protective Services School Safety Unit requires a school security officer “who carries a firearm (as permitted in the bill) in the performance of his duties to provide proof that he or she has completed both basic and in-service training courses provided by a federal, state, or local law-enforcement agency that includes training in active shooter emergency response, emergency evacuation procedure, and threat assessment,” including “breach of the peace.”
The Committee adopted amendments that would require parents of all students under age 21 to be notified in cases where students are detained for school safety matters. In cases where the school security officer determines the matter includes “immediate danger” to the school, its students, employees or others, he may “detain” the student, although parents or guardians will be notified.
There were questions about whether students detained should be read “Miranda” rights, which became the genesis of the above amendments.
The Committee, by a 15-10 vote, rejected a proposed amendment by Delegate James Robert “JB” Akers II of Kanawha County to strike the term “systemic” racism from the bill.
A representative of the Capitol Police, which is responsible for providing training regarding school safety (as the Division of Protective Services), stated the ”awareness of systemic and individual racism, cultural diversity, and implicit bias” is customary training provided to security officers, and the advisory committee would be responsible to determine clarification of the language.
The bill permits a school security officer to carry a weapon based on several criteria, including service as a law enforcement officer within 10 years “immediately prior to being hired by” the school(s) or employment by a U.S. law enforcement agency or any state or political subdivision where the officer’s duties were substantially similar to those of a law-enforcement officer, as defined in code.
The law enforcement officer must have retired or resigned from their position –- last held within 10 years –- in “good standing.” The law enforcement officer also would have to meet the legislation’s qualifications for employment and completion of required training, which is to provide proof to the Division of Protective Services School Safety Unit of having completed active shooter training and training that includes emergency response, emergency evacuation procedure, and threat assessment.
The school entity is responsible for providing equipment for school security officers.
The employing entity is responsible for soliciting input from the chief law-enforcement officer of the locality regarding the qualifications of the school security officer and receiving verification from the chief law-enforcement officer that the school security officer is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, purchasing, or transporting a firearm if part of the entity’s assigned duties for the position.