A post-Newtown world has raised many questions for communities.
Amid discussions on mental health and potential gun control is a solution that ostensibly brings security straight to schools in the form of a uniformed officer.
After a gunman reportedly killed 26 people on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Okaloosa County’s attention focused on security measures, including keeping school resource officers on elementary campuses. Such officers already were on middle school and high school campuses.
Such a certified law enforcement officer would be a law-related counselor and educator, according to the Center for the Prevention of School Violence.The officer has an established connection with the school and its students, showing up not just during crises, and maintaining a long-term school presence.
Providing school resource officers here in Okaloosa isn’t cheap; $3.5 million will keep them on campus for a year.
The county must raise $1.1 million to keep 26 deputies in elementary schools through June, but the county’s making inroads to these goals, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.
The Okaloosa County School Board on Monday voted 4-1 to spend $523,000 ensuring school resource officers stay in our elementary schools.
Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said he could pull $300,000 from forfeiture funds.
The County Commission is next; the board on Jan. 22 is expected to vote on whether to cover $265,000 that would close the gap.
Of course, the $3.5 million question is whether the program can help, particularly since it requires sacrificing other needs.
The school board already cut guidance counselor and staff specialist positions, with no known consequence on school safety, newspapers report. A post-Newtown environment spurred a vote that favored allocating funding for the program, but that $523,000 also could be used elsewhere within the school system — like rehiring those guidance counselors and staff specialists.
So, is this a wise investment?
Is the task of keeping a school safe just too much for one school resource officer?
The Center for Prevention of School Violence believes we shouldn’t underestimate the officer’s influence.
The center justifies school resource officers because, it says, school violence and other crimes are not just campus problems. Smaller disciplinary problems, unchecked, can grow into larger problems that affect the whole community.
Because school disciplinary problems reflect community crimes and the cycle repeats, the community, not just the school, should police the problem, the center states.
School resource officers primarily could develop crime prevention programs that help potential victims protect themselves in violent situations; teach kids about peaceful conflict resolution; and help craft school policy promoting a safer environment, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
It’s fitting that Ashley would seek more of these officers for Okaloosa schools, as a Miami police chief purportedly coined the term school resource officer, or SRO, in the mid-1960s, spurring Florida school districts’ first SRO programs within the next two decades, according to the center.
However, Second Amendment supporters suggesting teachers and other school staff should carry licensed, concealed weapons would be at odds with the National Association of School Resource Officers, whose website, nasro.org, states no one but the officer should be armed on school property.
Additionally, constitutional rights advocates may have concerns, as school resource officers searching student property could be acting as law enforcement officers or school officials — which opens another contentious issue: whether students should be read their Miranda rights before being questioned.
Contact News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbeditor.