At a meeting in July, Lee County school board members took steps to arm school staff as “special conservators of the peace.” In a surprising rejection, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DOJ) turned down the request by Superintendent Brian Austin, according to the Associated Press.
The DOJ referred the district to an advisory opinion given by Attorney General Mark Herring, who deemed the plan unlawful under a questionable reading of the applicable statutes.
In a statement released on the Office of the Attorney General’s website, Herring stated, “Our kids deserve a safe, secure learning environment when they come to school, and adding guns and armed, unqualified personnel to our classrooms is incompatible with that goal.
“The law already provides several options for employing armed security personnel with full law enforcement training, but the law doesn’t allow for the arming of unqualified personnel, and for good reason. The introduction of unqualified personnel with guns raises the likelihood of a tragic accident, or potentially catastrophic confusion during an emergency,” he explained.
Herring went onto explain that the General Assembly has laid out various ways in which schools may employ trained, armed security. Notably, the opinion doesn’t mention the broad authority given to schools by the General Assembly to authorize individuals to carry “weapons,” including firearms, as part of a school sponsored program.
Austin has stated the district is working with legal counsel to review its options.
The official opinion put out by Herring can be read here.