Funding of security forces is part of the excessive levy | WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The Kanawha County School Board voted Thursday to submit the school system’s five-year excess tax renewal to voters in the November general election.

The excess levy proposes more than $13 million in security improvements, including the hiring of a 12-member armed security force that will cover schools that currently do not have resource officers.

Kanawha County Schools Safety Chief Keith
Vititoe, center, in front of Kanawha BOE members

KCS executive director of safety and security, Keith Vititoe, detailed the duties of the security forces at Thursday evening’s board meeting.

“They are protectors,” Vititoe said. “They can certainly be there at the school to provide public safety, but law enforcement has yet to investigate the crime.”

Vititoe said security forces would mingle with other school staff. They will not wear police-type uniforms or drive marked vehicles.

“If we have someone who is marked, then anyone who walks past the school will be able to see whether they are there or not. If we don’t – and everyone knows this – then there will be a bit of a uncertainty and they won’t know if we’re waiting for them behind the door or not. That’s the intention,” Vititoe said.

School staff would know the members of the security forces, Vititoe said.

There are currently 11 Kanawha County School Resource Officers. The 12-member security force would rotate to cover the other 55 schools, Vititoe said.

“We want them to have the experience of working in all these different schools and working with these different employees. We also want to move them around so students don’t get used to them,” he said.

According to Vititoe, security forces are not law enforcement and will not replace law enforcement. They will not make arrests or impose school discipline. They will not write quotes or appear in uniform.

“The bottom line is that they are there to protect students and staff,” Vititoe said.

Vititoe hopes to hire retired police officers.

Other security measures planned during the five-year tax surplus are the construction of security vestibules in 57 school buildings creating a barrier that would prevent visitors from entering through a door and gaining access to students.

The excess levy would also fund high-tech detection machines that are considered several steps up from metal detectors. The machines would be located in high schools across the county.

The school board is proposing the renewal of the excess levy earlier than in previous years due to a new state law that says levies can only appear on the ballot in primary and general elections. Kanawha County voters approved the current levy in November 2018; the current levy will expire in June 2024.

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