By Micah Fleet
Steve Burgdorf, 54, shows up to work every day at 7:50 a.m., because he likes to get there before the kids do.
“I usually stand in the parking lot and make sure nobody’s doing donuts or anything,” Burgdorf said.
Burgdorf is a school resource officer, with a holstered sidearm and walkie talkie on his belt. As the emblem on his knit shirt indicates, he is a deputy of the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s office, which serves in the county’s schools.
As the mass killings of students at Sandy Hook Elementary in December prompt some to call for more armed personnel in schools, Burgdorf remains the only resource officer for Rockbridge County’s seven schools. Burgdorf said he spends the majority of his time at Rockbridge County High School, where he organizes drug and alcohol education programs and talks to students about their increased legal rights when they turn 18.
Burgdorf is tasked with keeping Rockbridge County’s schools safe, but said that he has trouble providing security for every school.
“It’s just common sense,” Burgdorf said. “I can’t be everywhere at once, so they call me when there’s a problem.”
Meanwhile, a bill to hire an additional 1,046 resource officers for every Virginia public school that does not currently have one died in a state Senate committee last week. The bill, which incorporated a bill from state Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County to put guards in every elementary school, would have cost the state $134 million the first year, and $72 million every year after that.
Burgdorf had mixed feelings about putting resource officers at the elementary level.
“There’s not much that goes on at the elementary schools,” Burgdorf said. “But, at the very least, it’d make the kids and teachers feel safer.”
Abbott Keesee, Rockbridge County High School’s coordinator of student services, said that Burgdorf is invaluable to the school because of his ability to provide legal advice.
“He’s here every day and he gets to know the students and they get to know him,” Keesee said. “I think it’s great to build trust between our kids and police officers.”