BERRYVILLE — A policy revised by the Clarke County School Board specifies exactly who can give permission for someone to carry weapons on school property or at school-sponsored events.
Only a school principal or the school division superintendent or his designee will now be able to give such permission, the revised “weapons in school” policy states.
Superintendent Chuck Bishop said his designee is Assistant Superintendent Rick Catlett.
The old policy simply stated that “authorization of the school or the school division” was necessary.
There were no problems under the old policy, Bishop said. Rather, the revision stemmed from a recommendation by the Virginia School Boards Association’s policy services division. The revised policy now complies with updated state code revisions.
Clarke County Sheriff’s Office deputies who work as school resource officers (SROs) are authorized to carry weapons. All four county schools will have resource officers when the new academic year begins on Sept. 8, officials have said.
However, the policy would enable any specific individuals deemed by administrators to be responsible and who hold valid firearm permits — such as retired law-enforcement or military officers — to help provide security at schools or school-sponsored events, if their services ever are needed, Bishop said.
SROs are the only people currently authorized to provide security. Nobody else has been authorized to have weapons, Bishop said.
Like regular law enforcement officers, SROs respond to incidents of criminality or mischief, and they can make arrests. But they also strive to help resolve conflicts as well as mentor students and develop positive relations with them, according to law-enforcement and educational websites.
Along with their SROs, two schools — Clarke County High School and Johnson-Williams Middle School — each have a civilian security officer. They will not be permitted to carry weapons.
“Our security officers serve a different role than an SRO,” Bishop said. They help in resolving truancy issues and minor discipline problems, supervising students throughout the school day and coordinating emergency planning.
“The security officers are an integral part of our School Division Safety Team,” Bishop stressed.
The Clarke schools’ policy generally states that having any firearm or other weapon or dangerous device in a school, on school grounds, in a vehicle owned by the school division or at a school-sponsored activity without permission is prohibited and grounds for disciplinary action.
All firearms are banned. That includes pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, pneumatic guns, air rifles and BB guns, even if they are unloaded and in secured containers.
Other types of weapons specifically prohibited include knives, machetes, razors, slingshots, brass or metal knuckles, fighting chains, throwing stars and explosive materials.
Firearms mufflers and silencers also are banned, as well as toy guns.
Any student found in possession of any of those items could be expelled from the school division for at least a year. The school board ultimately would decide what type of punishment is warranted, based on unique circumstances surrounding an incident.