Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2008

Joint meeting brings support for School Resource Officer

March 13, 2008

In a joint City Council and Lansing School Board meeting Monday, members of both groups agreed that adding a School Resource Officer would make a positive difference.

Superintendent Randal Bagby said he has been discussing the idea with officials from the city and the police department for a year but in the last six months has begun to take steps forward.

"The position will deal with safety and potential violence, but there is an educational opportunity to address truancy and other issues or problems that are happening at home," he said. "This is the first district in my career that we have a really good relationship teaming the district with the city and law enforcement."

The School Resource Officer will visit each of the four Lansing schools on a daily basis. Police Chief Steve Wayman said Lansing wanted to create a position that is a "hybrid" of a regular SRO. He said preliminary talks have shown the importance of having the position not only enforce school rules and keep students safe but also to be available to students as a person to talk to regarding problems.

"The SRO will not just be in one area," Wayman said. "He'll be widely seen and available to any student. He's going to wear a lot of different hats."

Bagby said that the school district was willing to pay three-quarters of the cost of the SRO and is asking the city to chip in the remaining one-quarter. The cost of the SRO position will be based on the city's pay scale for a regular officer, Bagby said.

The SRO will be a regularly trained officer with the police department. During the summer months, Wayman said the officer would be available to take on regular duties because school will be out of session.

The police department, along with school district and city officials soon will begin interviewing candidates pending a formal approval of the position in an upcoming City Council meeting. Bagby said he was hoping to have someone hired by May so he or she can begin training over the summer months and be ready to fully take on the role starting at the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year.

"Our main goal is the safety of our students," said Shelly Gowdy, school board president. "Getting (a SRO) in place before there is a need is going to help keep that need down."

Don Studnicka, Ward 2 council member, said an SRO would be good for schools. He said he envisioned the position of SRO interacting with students and getting to know them on a personal level. He said this is an opportunity for students to get comfortable with law enforcement.

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