W.Va. Senate creates guardians for school safety

W.Va. Senate creates guardians for school safety
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 7:31 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Two special ops veterans from Putnam County could play a critical role in a guardian program to protect your child’s school.

The West Virginia Senate passed legislation Monday that would allow local school systems to hire honorably discharged military veterans and retired state troopers or deputy sheriffs to serve as guardians -- an armed presence to protect life and property.

Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, sponsored the legislation and said it was the idea of special ops veterans.

“It went straight from a citizen bringing it to me in a McDonald’s to going off the Senate floor in a matter of a couple months,” he said Monday to WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

Senate Bill 282 advanced to the House without opposition. Neither veteran wished to speak on camera.

Tarr believes it will bring the bravery of those who served overseas to local classrooms.

“You have guys that in Iraq, Afghanistan, all over the world and in places that we may not even know, that are guys who are trained to run at a gun and neutralize a threat to our innocent students and our innocent faculty,” Tarr said.

Each guardian would be an independent contractor — not eligible for perks of full-time, school employment. Each county would have the flexibility to set specific terms of each contract.

The American Legion said the benefit to a military veteran could be great.

“I never thought I’d live to see the day that it would possibly happen,” said Thomas Edward Hicks, state commander for the West Virginia American Legion. “It will give them a sense of pride, that yes, we’re still here and we’re still able to do something for our families and our children.”

“So these are guys who already have a service mindset, who want to go out and do more, use their skills to be those heroes they’ve been trained to be,” Tarr said.

Guardians would have no arrest power and would not serve as law enforcement. Their mission -- to protect life and property.

The proposal now moves to the state House, where delegates are also considering a proposal that would arm select teachers. That bill is currently in committee.