Lee County School Board files suit against state to arm employees

Stephen Igo • Jan 16, 2019 at 9:02 AM

JONESVILLE — Lee County Public Schools on Tuesday issued a press release announcing the county school board has filed suit in Lee County Circuit Court to challenge the state’s refusal to issue a registration as a special conservator of the peace to Lee Schools Superintendent Brian Austin.

Last summer, the Lee County School Board unanimously approved arming selected employees because the county cannot afford more school resource officers to be placed in all the schools. The move sent tremors across the state to Richmond, and the Virginia attorney general eventually declared the action out of compliance with state laws regarding special conservators of the peace (SCOP).

In its press release Tuesday, the members of the Lee County School Board “believe that Dr. Austin fulfilled all legal requirements for SCOP registration. However, Austin’s registration was denied because the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in reliance on the attorney general of Virginia, has taken the position that it will not issue a SCOP registration for a school employee who will be armed on school property.

“It is this rejection that has led the LCSB to file today’s lawsuit.”

“It is important for the members of our community to know that keeping the children in our schools safe is a top priority for every member of the school board,” said school board Chair Debbie Jessie.

“This was a unanimous decision to move forward with training and adding security,” said Mike Kidwell, the school board vice chair. “As a school board member, I would vote to hire seven new school resource officers if that was an option in Lee County. In my opinion, adding security against an active shooter in this day and time is a must for all public schools. Several other states have already taken this common sense approach with real results.”

The legal effort on behalf of the Lee County School Board will be led by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.