Hot Topic: School Board discusses school resource officer

A school resource officer at Quantico Middle/High School in Quantico, Virginia. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Parents, the police chief, and school board members weighed in during the November 14 school board meeting about the idea of hiring a school resource officer (SRO) for PHS, MHS and PMS. While ostensibly prompted by recent incidents (fights, vaping in high school bathrooms, and other school safety concerns not uncommon to the American high school experience these days), the idea was first discussed seriously as far back as last year by Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers and PUSD Superintendent Randall Booker. Some grant money is available to fund a campus safety officer.

By federal definition, an SRO is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department or agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools. In other words, someone who answers to the police but is on campus in a way that would feel more like a counselor in charge of keeping kids safe. SROs may carry a weapon.

Several parents who spoke at the meeting favored the idea, voicing concerns that school bathrooms, for example, where some students go to vape, were not properly monitored and that the schools should have more adults on campus with the authority to interact with rule-breakers. A student voiced a different opinion, that this would reinforce a lack of trust that students feel toward staff.

Several board members said they needed more information about costs and the specific role and scope of any proposed SRO before making any decisions. Both Superintendent Booker and Chief Bowers noted they had plans to bring this idea to the community for feedback before making a recommendation to the board.

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