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Amendment removing systemic racism reference in bill leads to drama in West Virginia House

By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The lead sponsor of an amendment to a bill Thursday to remove references to systemic racism refused to take questions, causing Democratic members of the West Virginia House of Delegates to have all bills read in full in protest.

The House passed House Bill 4851 on Thursday, allowing for public and private schools in West Virginia to employ security personnel, in a 89-0 vote, sending the bill to the state Senate.

HB 4851 would authorize a school security officer to carry a firearm as long as they are former law enforcement officers in good standing, obtain and maintain certification from the Division of Protective Services, undergo background checks and are approved to do so by their school boards. While not authorized to arrest someone, they can detain individuals until law enforcement arrives.

An amendment offered by Del. Elias Coop-Gonzalez, R-Randolph, amended a section of the bill requiring the director of the Division of Protective Services — in consultation with the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction — to establish minimum training regulations for school security personnel.

Training standards may include “awareness of systemic and individual racism, cultural diversity, and implicit bias.” Coop-Gonzalez’s amendment, which was adopted in a 75-20 vote, removed the words “systemic” and “individual” from that training standard. The amendment was also sponsored by Dels. Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier; Geoff Foster, R-Putnam; Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer; and Bryan Ward, R-Hardy.

House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, rose to ask questions of Coop-Gonzalez and Geartheart, but neither delegate would yield to questions.

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