Chris Schulz Published

Interim Legislative Meeting Focuses On School Safety

Police, School, High School, Safety, School Safety

The Joint Standing Committee on Education, part of the West Virginia Legislature, heard from two law enforcement leaders during a Monday interim meeting about the increased danger schools face from armed intruders.

Both presented lawmakers with the stark reality of protecting schools in the era of mass shootings.

Keith Vititoe, safety director for Kanawha County Schools, said that according to FBI statistics, from 2020 to 2021, there was a 52 percent increase in the frequency of armed intruder accounts.

“The recommendations that I have very simply is that when we have critical needs in schools that we find a way to fund the shortcomings at a school, no matter how large or small,” Vititoe said. “Also, that we actually change the legislation to make it easier for local Boards of Education to actually hire the security personnel.“

Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger argued that having armed officers in schools is no longer enough.

“Make no mistake about it. It’s not if, it’s when it will happen,” he said. “If we had the funding and the initiative, we would put an officer in every school. However, that would only be the tip of the iceberg, per se.”

Mellinger asked legislators to consider expanding his “Shield Program,” which puts tactically trained officers in schools on a rotating basis, in the upcoming session.