There is no question there is value in having professional police officers in schools.
The topic for discussion by elected officials is the cost and can those expenses be negotiated, and at who’s expense — our youth?
School Resource Officers serve to protect students on campus from violence and drugs. They are supposed to be a friendly face in the hallways and a community liaison. They are in place to respond to an emergency situation without hesitation — to provide a sense of safety.
Last week, the Granger School District reinstated their School Resource Officer program in an effort to rebuild a waning relationship between students, administrators and local police. Issues on school campuses like substance abuse, which leads to an unsafe and under-achieving environment has been a major area of concern for parents.
Meanwhile, Sunnyside faces the potential of removing police academy trained officers in the high school and middle schools. City officials have supported the SRO program. The immediate question facing the Council and School District is how will the SROs be funded, or which entity will negotiate the best deal and win the cost savings fight?
In years past, the city and school district have split the cost. SRO personnel are highly trained to deal with school incidents. That training and the relationships built during the school year pay off in the other months beyond the school calendar.
Following Monday night’s City Council meeting with two members absent, Councilmember Ron Stremler presented a motion to fund the SRO program 25/75. The bulk of the cost would be shifted to the school district and the motion failed with a 2-2 vote. Councilmember Hicks abstained.
Clearly, it’s a matter of safety for the rest of us. But more importantly for city officials, it’s about who pays what percentage? So, now the matter goes back to the city manager to meet with the school district again.
Perhaps, this time the district might decide to contract their own security officers.
In the end, it is the community who loses over the issue of shared financial burdens. One thing is certain: no one wants to see untrained personnel on campus trying to deal with school incidents. That wouldn’t be safe.
Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com