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School Board votes on SRO program

October 8, 2013 - Jessica Illuzzi
DUBOIS- There were two distinct, opposing views at Monday's special School Board meeting. There was a long debate over the issue of the employment of the current School Resource Officer and whether the School Board should look into other options, like creating their own security team of retired State Troopers.

Students, staff and parents of the high school and middle school made heartfelt pleas to keep the current School Resource Officers in the schools. They said the connection between the officers and students was worth more than any amount of money, that the closeness between the students and the officer helps keep students safe from others and hurting themselves. They said it helped stop bullying, prevent students from straying on to the wrong path and that the knowledge the officer has about each student could help prevent a disaster. They also said the officer makes the students feel comfortable enough to open up, which they may not feel comfortable doing with other officers.

Assistant Principal Brian Mulhollan said,“ The program has been effective by establishing a system where we work together with a common goal in mind. The goal is to provide a safe learning environment for our student’s. This begins with positive student interactions and earning the respect of our student’s. Students feel comfortable asking our SRO questions and parents also call in on a weekly basis. These interactions have created positive ties with our police department.”

Police Chief Dellulo said the City of DuBois completely supports the program which has been ongoing for 14 years, but he also said he could not provide more officers.

Members of the council discussed the financial side of the issue and the importance of bringing security into the elementary schools along with the possibility of using retired State Troopers as security.  Board member Thomas Repine said, “The cost with the city next year for one officer a day is $496 a day. The overtime is $56.74 an hour.“ Over time included football games, dances, and other after school events.  

Repine also said that nearly 6 of the retired State Troopers could be employed for a similar amount. This would open the possibility for more officers at the high school and middle school and officers for the elementary schools, which currently have none.

Before the board voted on whether or not to agree to the price and continue the current School Resource Officer Program, Mark Heckman made a statement saying that he was in favor of continuing the program. “I’m not one to hide behind a board vote with everyone thinking 'what does Mark think?' So I am going to tell you what Mark thinks.”

 
Hear his entire speech:  

 



He said, “There has been much discussion about the SROs in the past few weeks. Unfortunately many members of the community both the school community and the general public have the mistaken notion that the board has taken a stance against the SRO program. On the contrary the board supports the program and recognizes the value the School Resource Officer brings to the culture and safety of the school. They simply chose to investigate whether there was a more economical way to reach the same effect.”

“The officers assigned to our middle school and high school not only provide safety from external threats they help to set a school wide tone that shows all students and staff that structure and respect are cool. And that learning happens when order is established,” Heckman said.

The board was almost equally divided, but with a vote of 5 to 4 the board decided not to accept the contract with DuBois Police and look into the option of creating their own security team with retired State Troopers from this area.

Thomas Repine, Roland Bechtel, Nancy Shade, Beverly Kurts, and Patty Fish voted no to continuing the program with the DuBois Police Department and to explore other options.

Louis Russell, Melissa Mowrey, , Scott Farrell and Lloyd McCreight voted yes to continue the current program.

Board member Patty Fish said she voted no because of her concern for the Elementary School. “As a parent, of course, safety is my top concern, because I have children in this school district. I would not approve of a rent-a-cop. I want something as good as we have now, if not better. And I don’t believe we are servicing our elementary schools right now with the program we have. I want to see our program expand into the elementary schools because I don’t think we are really thinking about elementary schools. We are focusing and concentrating on the high school and middle school. We also have to focus on the other kids in the other schools as well.”

After the vote, disappointed parents, students and teachers filed out of the previously packed room.

Students said they were disappointed with the decision and worried about the future. High School Seniors Carly Wells and Hunter Spencer said the officer in the school now is important to them and putting in an inexperienced replacements is not the right move.

“I feel that what happened shouldn’t have happened. Officer Prosper has been there for us no matter how big or how small it was. He did save my life at one point in time and I am really grateful for that,” said Wells. She had been bullied by someone who had threatened to kill her and this person had a list of other students they said they wanted to harm.

“The choice they made was very disappointing. I hate to see what choices they’ll make after this.” Spencer said.

They said that they do feel it is important that the elementary schools have security but felt there may be another way without taking away from the system in place now.

“It is important to have security in the elementary schools. But before that we should make sure that what is going on now in the high school continues, because taking police away and putting in, probably, untrained people isn’t the way to go about things.” Spencer said.

Wells also said, “I hope that whatever they do, they do bring in someone who can protect us equally as well as he can.”

 

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