By Joseph Hamrick
More than one month has passed since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
Since then, school safety and security have been the focal point for students, teachers and parents. President Obama announced 23 items that he would like to see Congress pass in the near future. Included in those items was federal funding for schools to apply for School Resource Officers.
Currently, Greenville Independent School District has two SROs in Richard Calender and James Hamilton. Recent discussion in the Jan. 15 GISD Board of Trustees meeting included adding an additional SRO for the district.
“We would love to have additional SROs,” Don Jefferies, superintendent of GISD said. “We are in the process of researching and investigating federal aid and grant opportunities.”
Jefferies said he was made aware by the Greenville Police Department of a three year Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Grant. The grant would cover a portion of the cost of an additional SRO, or a mix of an SRO and security officers.
Tom Durham, district 2 trustee, came out in favor of seeking an additional SRO.
“I think we need another SRO at the Sixth Grade Center now or very soon,” he said, adding that since an SRO can carry a weapon and make arrests, that would be better than using funds to hire more security officers, who are not allowed a weapon.
Jefferies agreed with Durham on the additional SRO but said that funding restrictions are a barrier that would need to be hurdled.
According to Jefferies, although security officers are not allowed weapons, they still can be eyes and ears for the school.
“SROs are preferred to security staff if you have the necessary resources,” Jefferies said. “Security officers who are also licensed police officers would be our second choice. Security officers who are not licensed police officers would be less expensive with less liability, therefore you could hire more of them. Having a person on each campus would be a desirable goal. Having a security person on each campus will provide our campuses with a person who could focus on security issues all day long. They can be out and about the campus all day. They will notice patterns of behavior and watch for suspicious persons. They will be able to provide a quick response if a security event happens.”
Jefferies also mentioned that the security officers could provide a degree of deterrence for criminals, as they can stop and question suspects, call 911, and can lockdown the school via radio.
According to Slack Brown, district 6 trustee, funding is not an issue when it comes to ensuring children’s safety.
“It doesn’t matter what our budget is,” he said. “If our kids are in danger, we need to find a way to protect them.”