School re­source of­fi­cers vi­tal to safety of stu­dents — and more

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Ev­ery day, we rely on our School Re­source Of­fi­cers (SROs) to help en­sure the safety of our stu­dents, staff and schools. The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, in 2013, called Charles County Pub­lic Schools SRO pro­gram and part­ner­ship with the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice a model for the na­tion.

Our of­fi­cers do much more than pa­trol our school hall­ways and ad­dress se­cu­rity mat­ters. They build re­la­tion­ships be­tween law en­force­ment and chil­dren. They pro­vide the ex­per­tise to deal with chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions and ad­dress se­cu­rity mat­ters.

Since 2011, we have had a full­time SRO at each mid­dle and high school. Each of­fi­cer also ser­vices the ele­men­tary schools in their geo­graphic ar­eas. Ad­di­tion­ally, th­ese of­fi­cers pro­vide sum­mer camps for at-risk youth, teach drug and al­co­hol pre­ven­tion pro­grams in mid­dle and high schools, present safe schools pro­grams to par­ents, school em­ploy­ees and oth­ers and mon­i­tor a stu­dent crime solvers pro­gram. Most im­por­tantly, the of­fi­cers build trust with their stu­dents, which ul­ti­mately makes our schools safer for ev­ery­one.

Re­cently, there has been dis­cus­sion about re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing SROs from our schools. We would hate to see this vi­tal ser­vice di­min­ished in any way. It works. The ben­e­fits SROs pro­vide to our stu­dents are too im­por­tant to be a bud­get item that be­comes part of a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle.

In a re­cent dis­cus­sion with Sher­iff Troy Berry, he stated he was com­mit­ted to hav­ing of­fi­cers in our schools, but bud­get con­straints were mak­ing it hard to keep the pro­gram in­tact. One al­ter­na­tive is for the sher­iff to re­tain con­trol of his bud­get, in­clud­ing any fund bal­ance, which would se­cure the SRO pro­gram. As a board, we support the sher­iff’s bud­get re­quest and hope the com­mis­sion­ers see the pos­i­tive im­pact this de­ci­sion would have on our schools, stu­dents and com­mu­nity.

Vir­ginia McGraw, Chair­woman; Michael Lukas, Vice Chair­man; Jen­nifer S. Abell, Board Mem­ber; Mark Craw­ford, Board Mem­ber; Vic­to­ria T. Kelly, Board Mem­ber; Mar­garet T. Mar­shall, Board Mem­ber; Bar­bara S. Palko, Board Mem­ber

This let­ter was sent to the Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers and the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent by the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

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