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This NC county wants to let armed volunteers guard its schools

Knightdale High School resource officer Pete Smith uses a body-worn camera at the school. He uses the camera if there is a fight or if he needs to interview students.
Knightdale High School resource officer Pete Smith uses a body-worn camera at the school. He uses the camera if there is a fight or if he needs to interview students. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

With the support of a 2013 North Carolina law, the Rockingham County sheriff wants to set up a program of armed volunteers to protect local schools.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page announced the initiative at a news conference Wednesday. Under the law, sheriffs’ offices and local police departments can set up volunteer school safety resource programs staffed with experienced law enforcement or military police officers.

“The time for action is now,” Page said at the news conference at the sheriff’s office, the Carolina Journal reported.

The state law allowing such programs was passed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The volunteers would work in public schools under agreements between sheriffs’ offices and school boards. They would have the power to arrest anyone while on duty and must meet firearms proficiency standards required of people serving as criminal justice officers, the statute says.

Since 17 people were killed in shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Page has been working with Rockingham County Schools Superintendent Rodney Shotwell to implement the program by next school year, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

More than 2,000 students walked out of Green Hope High School on February 28, 2018 to demand political changes to try to end school gun violence following the recent Florida school shooting massacre. More walk outs were scheduled for March 14.

Rockingham County Schools Superintendent Rodney Shotwell and Speaker of the House Tim Moore, who spoke last week at the North Carolina Press Association convention about how the volunteer program is underused in the state, joined Page in the news conference.

Rockingham told reporters that state lawmakers, county officials, police chiefs in Rockingham County and sheriffs from Randolph, Henderson and Caswell counties supported the decision, Fox 8 reported.

If the Rockingham County school board approves the program, it’ll be the first district in the state with such a volunteer school resource officers program, the Carolina Journal reported.

Page wants to implement the program with other law enforcement agencies across North Carolina, he told the Winston-Salem Journal.

“If we are successful, we have the opportunity to establish a model and template for the rest of North Carolina to follow so other school districts can protect their schools and children,” Page said at the news conference.

Speaker of the House Moore told journalists at the North Carolina Press Association convention last week that many sheriffs’ office will be redoubling their efforts to implement the volunteer program.

President Trump called on Congress to create a comprehensive gun control bill during a school safety discussion with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Feb. 28.

Camila Molina: 919-829-4538, @Cmolina__

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