Cape board debates school officers

Lewis: Police presence is unfunded mandate
Cape Henlopen school board members continue discussion over whether to hire a student resource officer for the district. BY MELISSA STEELE
November 4, 2013

Cape Henlopen school board revisited hiring a student resource officer position to the district with mixed reaction Oct. 24.

About six years ago, the district eliminated the student resource officer position, but after last year's shootings in Newtown, Conn., the SRO issue resurfaced. Following discussion earlier this year, Superintendent Robert Fulton said he understood the board did not want to bring an SRO back to the district.

“We felt the culture and behavior has been good and much improved,” he said.

At the high school, Fulton said, Dean of Student's Bill Collick has taken over much of the interaction with students that the SRO once did.

Board member Sandi Minard questioned why the district does not have an SRO when it is a position the state includes in its safety plan model, implying that school districts should have one. Neighboring Indian River school district has a student resource officer or security guard at each of its 15 schools after a school board decision made in spring.

“It's clear our sister district feels that SROs can improve safety,” she said.

Board member Jen Burton said administrators often take hours to resolve situations, deterring them from their regular duties. An SRO would free up administrators to do their jobs, she said.

“I'm all for an SRO,” she said. “I think we should have an SRO that helps in the building.”

The issue, however, revolves around cost. At $80,000 a year, board Vice President Roni Posner said the money could be better spent on other safety measures such as securing district buildings.

“If you're going to spend $80,000, is that really the most effective way to improve safety in the schools?” Posner asked.

She said it is impractical to expect one person to ensure safety at eight or nine schools.

Board member Andy Lewis said the issue has always been the state's suggestion that school districts employ an SRO – without funding the position.

“I have a problem with the state saying you really have to have this SRO, but you have to pay for it,” he said.

Lewis said the safety committee should address the SRO situation and decide one way or another whether the district should proceed.

“That way it's not just the board having a discussion; it's someone doing the research and coming up with answer,” he said.

Board President Spencer Brittingham said the board will continue discussion on the SRO in the future.

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