School resource officers have become a topic of discussion in the wake of recent school shootings.
While the armed officer at Parkland allegedly was ineffectual in his post — remaining outside during the events — some schools are looking at ways to partner with cities to have a familiar police presence on campus.
“If you try and hire a school resource officer, that costs money,” Pope County High School principal Ryan Fritch said. “A lot of the school infrastructure upgrades you’d like to make for security purposes are hard to do because the funding structure isn’t there.”
In a letter sent by Vienna School Superintendent Joshua Stafford on Thursday, he said he has been in talks with city and county officials to provide a police officer at the high school every day school is in session.
"This coverage will add to our current safety efforts in all schools by allowing for other officers to be available to the grade schools," Stafford wrote. He said the city is advertising for part-time officer positions in order to provide the manpower needed to have an officer at the school five days a week.
As for when the officer will be available at Vienna High School, Stafford said "it is anticipated that the city council will make initial hires at its next meeting."
Carbondale Community High School has had a resource officer for six years. Principal Booth said Molly Harris, the school’s SRO, is not just a visible security presence, but also a “link between the community and the school.” He said the goal is for her to act in a security capacity, and also to build trust between the police department and the students.
Resource officers have been criticized in recent years after incidents have been reported of officers using what some have seen as excessive force on students — Booth blames this on schools.
He said what gets SROs in hot water is when schools ask them to act in a disciplinary role — this is not the case at Carbondale, he said. While Harris would work to defuse a heated situation or even work to break up a fight, this is not her primary role, which Booth said is just to be the face of security for students — she is there to be a resource for students who might have questions or concerns regarding their safety at school.
Booth said in terms of security, and even in potentially preventing or diffusing an active shooter situation, the biggest savior is a quick response time. By having an SRO, the school’s ability to have a call answered swiftly increases, he said.