Legislation that would allow school security officers to be armed with stun guns, pepper spray and similar weapons is advancing in the General Assembly.
Security officers are not sworn law enforcement officers and are not allowed to be armed under current law.
Del. Mark Cole, a Spotsylvania County Republican, introduced the measure. He says he wants school security officers to be better equipped to respond in the event of an armed intruder.
Opponents, including Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration, say they worry that stun guns and other such weapons could be turned against students. They also point out that Cole's bill includes no training requirement.
The bill has passed the House of Delegates and was approved Monday on a 3-2 party-line vote by a Republican-controlled Senate subcommittee.
Jeree Thomas, an attorney with the Richmond-based Legal Aid Justice Center, said she is concerned that "we'll be hearing about kids being pepper-sprayed or a child with a disability being stunned.''
Use of such weapons against students has spurred lawsuits and federal civil rights complaints in at least three states, Thomas said.
Cole said it is not his intent that stun guns and similar weapons would be used against students.
Colleen Miller, executive director of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, an advocacy group, said Cole's bill is at cross purposes with legislation passed earlier in this session to rein in the use of seclusion and restraint as methods of controlling unruly students.
That legislation would impose statewide regulations on the use of such techniques, including training requirements for school personnel.