MORE OF­FI­CERS IN SCHOOLS?

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY SARA SCHILLING ss­[email protected]­i­ty­her­ald.com

Ken­newick has in­cluded money in its 2019-20 budget to help pay for school re­source of­fi­cers at all five mid­dle schools.

It was mid-morn­ing Fri­day, and Dy­lan Let­trick had a prob­lem.

The eighth-grader at High­lands Mid­dle School in Ken­newick couldn’t get his locker open. He needed the bin­der in­side.

Luck­ily, Of­fi­cer Tim Har­ris hap­pened to be walk­ing by.

Af­ter a few tries, Har­ris popped it open and saved the day — to Dy­lan’s great relief.

It’s one of the ways, big and small, that Har­ris is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence at High­lands as its new school re­source of­fi­cer, or SRO.

And there may be even more po­lice of­fi­cers like him sta­tioned at Ken­newick mid­dle schools next aca­demic year.

Of­fi­cials say SROs make the schools and com­mu­nity safer in more ways than one, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing how quickly of­fi­cers can re­spond to se­ri­ous school vi­o­lence and bul­ly­ing threats. It also al­lows other pa­trol of­fi­cers to re­main on the streets to han­dle calls in the com­mu­nity.

The po­lice depart­ment and school district share the top pri­or­ity of school safety, said Po­lice Chief Ken Ho­hen­berg, adding that SROs are a key part of that safety equa­tion. They pa­trol and pro­tect the schools, in­ves­ti­gate is­sues and so on, he said.

They’re also another trusted adult kids can go to if they need help.

The city has in­cluded money in its pre­lim­i­nary 2019-20 budget to help pay for SROs at all five mid­dle schools, bring­ing the SRO ranks to eight to­tal, in­clud­ing the three who’ve been sta­tioned at the district’s high schools for years.

School district of­fi­cials haven’t yet de­cided whether they’ll need those ad­di­tional mid­dle school SROs yet.

But, “it’ll give me the flex­i­bil­ity to do what­ever we need to do to part­ner with the school district,” Ho­hen­berg said.

The city coun­cil is sched­uled to vote on the budget Dec. 4.

Like many districts,

Ken­newick has long had high school SROs.

But this past spring, the school board voted to add two more to cover its mid­dle schools.

Har­ris is based at High­lands and also cov­ers Chi­nook and Desert Hills. Of­fi­cer Dave Hughes cov­ers Park and Horse Heaven Hills.

They also help with any is­sues at their mid­dle school’s feeder el­e­men­taries, where the district al­ready has spent tens of thou­sands on se­cu­rity up­grades to its old­est and most vul­ner­a­ble schools.

The city and school district are on dif­fer­ent budget cy­cles, so the district is pay­ing for the mid­dle school SRO this year be­cause the po­lice budget al­ready was set, Ho­hen­berg said. Gen­er­ally, the two or­ga­ni­za­tions roughly split the costs.

The city has about $1 mil­lion bud­geted for eight SROs in the 2019-20 budget.

The district would re­im­burse for its share, Ho­hen­berg said.

He sees school re­source of­fi­cers as role mod­els.

“We strive to treat all peo­ple with dig­nity, re­spect and fair­ness. They’re able to model that be­hav­ior,” Ho­hen­berg said, adding that “it’s a per­sonal con­nec­tion (kids) have with a po­lice of­fi­cer. They re­mem­ber their DARE of­fi­cer, their SRO, just like their fa­vorite teach­ers.”

Ron Wil­liamson, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, said the school district “couldn’t ask for a bet­ter part­ner­ship with the Ken­newick Po­lice Depart­ment. We need some­thing and make a call, and they re­spond. School safety is at the top of their list.”

The district will look at whether it needs to add more mid­dle school SROs in the spring, he said.

Other Tri-City districts also have school re­source of­fi­cers.

Pasco has them at all its mid­dle and high schools.

In Rich­land, SROs work at Han­ford and Rich­land high schools and also cover the mid­dle schools as needed.

The city of West Rich­land also is pay­ing for a third SRO to cover the mid­dle schools in its bound­aries.

At High­lands on Fri­day, in be­tween open­ing stuck lock­ers, Har­ris chat­ted with a food ser­vice worker, greeted stu­dents pick­ing up break­fast and popped into a class­room. That’s com­mon for him — he’s work­ing to build re­la­tion­ships, to be a trusted pres­ence.

A while back, he even dusted off his own math skills to help a stu­dent in that sixth-grade class.

“I was help­ing her with frac­tions, and I was like, ‘I think you know this bet­ter than I do,’” Har­ris said with a laugh.

But he tried. And it made a dif­fer­ence.

He has a thank you note from the stu­dent tucked away in his desk.

It reads, “Thanks so much for help­ing me with my math work. Even if you say you’re not good at frac­tions, I re­ally think you’re su­per good at frac­tions.” The girl also thanked Har­ris for mak­ing the school safe.

BOB BRAWDY Tri-City Her­ald

School re­source of­fi­cer Tim Har­ris, with the Ken­newick po­lice, shares a light mo­ment with stu­dent Chris Jack­son dur­ing an in­for­mal class­room visit re­cently at High­lands Mid­dle School in Ken­newick. It’s one of the ways, big and small, that Har­ris is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence at High­lands. Watch a video at: tric­i­ty­her­ald.com/video

BOB BRAWDY Tri-City Her­ald

School re­source of­fi­cer Tim Har­ris at High­lands Mid­dle School. Of­fi­cials say SROs make schools and the com­mu­nity safer by, for ex­am­ple, let­ting of­fi­cers re­spond faster to school vi­o­lence and bul­ly­ing threats, free­ing other pa­trol of­fi­cers to stay on the streets.

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