At a campaign rally in Fairfax County, Virginia, on Tuesday night, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin told supporters he would have police officers stationed at all of the state’s schools if he wins this November.
“Every school will be required to have school resource officers on its campus,” Youngkin said. “They will be on campus, or that school will lose its funding.”
The debate over armed police officers at schools, commonly called school resource officers, has been ongoing in the D.C. region for some time.
Both Arlington County and Alexandria in Northern Virginia voted to remove officers from their schools this year, though Alexandria’s decision was reversed this month and officers were reinstated due to violent incidents at Alexandria City High School.
At his rally, Youngkin called on the Virginia attorney general to investigate the Loudoun County public school system after one student was accused in two sexual assaults.
The 15-year-old student who allegedly groped a girl at Broad Run High School earlier this month had been on electronic monitoring after being charged with sexually assaulting a young girl in a bathroom at Stone Bridge High School last May.
“They had a duty of care and they failed,” Youngkin said. “They endangered our students.”
In remarks last week, Loudoun County Superintendent Scott Ziegler apologized, saying he would propose changes to the relationship between the school system and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, “to ensure school discipline and criminal investigations can happen simultaneously.”
Youngkin accused the county of a “cover-up,” noting that the school system was being investigated by the Virginia Department of Education for omitting, in a public database, reports of sexual assaults at schools.
In previous remarks, Ziegler responded to that investigation and blamed a “lack of oversight that existed prior to my tenure.”
“The division inadvertently omitted some information in the past; that is extremely concerning,” Ziegler said. “We are taking steps to make sure that this process is improved.”
The campaign of Youngkin’s Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe released a statement, calling Tuesday’s rally “divisive” and accusing Youngkin of making “constant threats against public school funding.”
The Virginia race for governor is considered to be a close one. Early voting in the Nov. 2 election is underway.