District may put officer in school

The Warren County School District is exploring the possibility of putting an armed security officer in one of its schools.

According to an executive summary prepared for the board of directors’ Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee meeting on Monday night, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office for Safe Schools has released a request for application for targeted grants to fund the training and compensation of School Resource Officers and School Police Officers.

“The maximum individual grant will be $60,000 for a School Resource Officer and $40,000 for a School Police Officer,” according to documents provided at the meeting. “School entities that have not employed a school police officer within the three years immediately preceding the effective date of the grant will receive priority. Additionally, priority will be given to those school entities that utilize school resource officers or school police who have completed additional training recommended by the department relating to interaction with all children and adolescents within a school building.”

Superintendent Dr. William Clark said previous districts he has served in have utilized these positions in different ways.

He offered several benefits to the presence of an officer, including that they can address cyber-bullying and internet safety issues as well as provide “some stuff for kids and some stuff for parents.” He explained that the officer can help students understand the consequences of their actions, such as what a fine will be if charged for fighting, that school officials might not know.

“(It) can nip problems in the bud,” he said. “If those situations did transpire in the school, (it is) different with someone standing there with a badge… Somebody in a uniform has a little bit of an impact.”

Clark said it is too early to determine where such an individual would be utilized in the district. He explained that the district submits a Safe Schools report to the state each year ,and information contained in that report, such as the recent vandalism at Youngsville High School, would enhance the district’s candidacy for grant funding.

Board member John Grant said the district has had school resource officers in place in the past, but the positions were ultimately eliminated when municipal funding, and then district funding, dried up.

For clarity, a school police officer is just that a law enforcement officer stationed in a school. However, school resource officers, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers, have a much more varied role which can include education and counseling initiatives in addition to protecting schools.

Two other grant options in this realm are also available. The Safe Schools targeted grant would assist with the cost of a wide variety of programs and plans intended to decrease school violence as well as the purchase of a host of security-related technology. The other grant option is left open to municipalities that wish to train and compensate a school resource officer at a school within their jurisdiction.

Gary Weber, curriculum, instruction and assessment director for the school district, said that the grant was before the committee for approval now so that it can go before the full board for full approval at the November meeting in advance of the Nov. 22 application deadline. The committee forwarded the recommendation to the full board.

According to the executive summary, the district must agree to fund the position for at least two years “subsequent to the completion of the grant” and also explained that “districts will be eligible for up to a 50 percent allocation renewal without application if the General Assembly continues to fund past 2013-2014.”