Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
OFFICERS ADDED TO WEST CHESTER SCHOOLS
The police presence has increased in the West Chester Area School District with the addition of school resource officers, or SRO, at Henderson and Rustin high schools. A SRO has walked the East High School hallways and parking lots since 2019.
West Chester Area School District SROs work directly for one of three local police departments. Kenneth Frascella works for the Westtown-East Goshen Police Department and started as a SRO at Rustin.
“The role of an SRO is to make every student who comes to high school feel safe,” Frascella said. “We want to make sure every student gets on the bus, headed home safe.
“Safety and security are number one. No parent wants to send their kid to school and not know if they are going to come home.”
West Goshen Lt. Michael Cotter is a former SRO.
“A SRO allows the students to mingle with a police officer in a positive way,” Cotter said. “People don’t generally call the police when they’re having a good day.
“Most of the time when people are interacting with a police officer it’s when they are having a bad day.
“(The SRO program) bridges the gap and allows students to see a police officer in a relaxed setting.”
Kalia Reynolds, substitute superintendent of the WCASD, is a supporter of SROs in high schools.
“Beyond working collaboratively with our Campus Safety Officers and school administrative teams in the event of serious student discipline incidents and security needs, SROs differ from our CSOs as they are sworn law enforcement officers who remain under the jurisdiction of their police department and maintain that authority,” she said. “SROs, especially those we look forward to welcoming into our schools, typically have experience working with youths and participate in training focused on supporting students and school communities.”
Campus Safety Officers are district employees who work in a safety and security capacity in the schools and are not associated with a police department.
East Principal Stephen Brown said that SROs feel like an additional level of support for the kids, with interactions similar to those with administrators.
“They’re a friendly face in the hall,” Brown said. “They create a supportive environment.”
Frascella said that growing up is difficult and some students have not dealt directly with a police officer.
A friendly face is helpful for those who have never worked with an officer as a victim or in an emergency situation. A SRO can help with something as simple as what to do when a car inspection is due or dealing with a red light citation.
Rik Thornton is the district’s public safety supervisor and said the SROs do a phenomenal job.
SROs work as law enforce
ment officers, should a crime arise. They also act as an informal coach or role model to students. Thornton said the officers are very approachable and give sound advice while supporting adolescents and making sure students are on the right path.
The SROs joining the school community in the next week as part of the board-approved four-year contracts are Officer Ryan ‘Norm’ Donkin, from the West Chester Police Department, at Henderson High School and Officer Frascella, from Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department, at Rustin High School. Sgt. Cheryl Taylor an officers Dave Spigarelli and Scott Myers, from the West Goshen Police Department, will continue to support East High School. Officers Donkin and Frascella are already familiar faces at both high schools as they have assisted with many athletic events and performed routine safety visits to the campuses.
The school district cost for each officer, paid to municipalities, is $75,000/ school year.
Reynolds noted that there are several ways to promote safety and security and many security procedures. Video surveillance, access control, expanded cellular and emergency response radio coverage, faculty and staff training, building-specific safety plans, and preventative resources such as WCASD’s team of 12 mental health therapists.