Two SROs leave school

Re­struc­tur­ing planned

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NETTE BEARD [email protected]

Two School Re­source Of­fi­cers have left the SRO pro­gram. One, John Lang­ham, re­turned to work­ing full time in the Po­lice Depart­ment. One, Mike Lira, left the depart­ment.

A new of­fi­cer, Rich Lang­ford, was placed in the schools this week join­ing Rick Helmer, who was one of three SRO in the schools the be­gin­ning of this school year.

“I want to move in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and re­struc­ture things in the SRO pro­gram,” Rick Neal, school su­per­in­ten­dent said, ad­ding that he did not re­move, nor ask for the re­moval of ei­ther Lira or Lang­ham. “I want to re­ally thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate how we can be safe and se­cure in the schools.”

The ideal sit­u­a­tion, Neal ex­plained, is for the SRO to be in­volved in the plan­ning and process of school safety and de­vel­op­ment of be­ing able to help through­out the district.

“We want to be more pre­emp­tive, more out in front,” Neal said, ad­ding that as the school has added coun­selors to ad­dress men­tal health, he hopes the SRO pro­gram will also be more proac­tive rather than re­ac­tive.

“Over the next sev­eral months, we will have meet­ings,” Neal said. He plans to look at var­i­ous SRO mod­els, in­clud­ing the one at Bentonville and an­other at a school in Texas.

With four cam­puses and an­other about to be added, Neal said look­ing at threat assess­ments and pro­vid­ing safety for the students and staff is a pri­or­ity for him and other school of­fi­cials.

The School Re­source Of­fi­cer pro­gram in Pea Ridge be­gan in 2007 when it was first ap­proved at the June 2007 City Coun­cil meet­ing then dis­cussed at the July School Board meet­ing. The first SRO was Lon Mitch Brown who be­gan work­ing in the schools in the fall of 2007.

In July 2008, then school su­per­in­ten­dent Mike Van Dyke rec­om­mended to the School Board to not re­new the con­tract with the city.

In 2012, city and school of­fi­cials re­vis­ited the dis­cus­sion of an SRO pro­gram and by the fall of 2012, Brown was back in the school. The pro­gram was sus­pended in Jan­uary 2015 for the re­main­der of the school year.

By the fall of 2015, two school re­source of­fi­cers — John Lang­ham and Tracy Reynolds — were in the schools.

In April 2018, school and city of­fi­cials agreed to add a third SRO and placed Mike Lira in the schools. Of­fi­cials also said they were con­sid­er­ing ad­ding a fourth of­fi­cer.

Re­quests for a com­ment from city of­fi­cials did not re­ceive a re­sponse.

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