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Patrick County may put officer in each school

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Patrick County Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to put school resource officers in each county school.

Before 2009, each of the seven schools had an SRO, according to Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith. But budget cuts in 2009 trimmed the program to three SROs.

One is assigned to Patrick County High School, and the other two alternate between all the other elementary schools, according to Smith, who unveiled his plan Monday to the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.

“The goal is to cover all the schools all day during every school day,” Smith said.

He proposes hiring three more deputies to rotate providing coverage in three additional county schools, for a total of six SROs.

Deputies would be required to work overtime to staff the seventh school, the plan showed.

The estimated annual $39,352 cost of the mandatory overtime is less than the estimated annual $42,018 cost (including salary of $31,518 and benefits of $10,500) of hiring another deputy, the plan showed.

Smith’s proposal would cost more than $322,800 to implement in fiscal 2014 and more than $203,580 to maintain in fiscal 2015, according to the plan. He did not elaborate on why costs would drop.

When school is not in session, the SROs would provide other services in the county, according to the plan. Smith said he created the proposal after receiving more than 100 calls from concerned parents after the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The plan could change due to financial and other resources and/or constraints, but the end goal of providing full coverage to all schools remains, Smith said.

Supervisors took no action on the plan Monday, Smith said, “But I think this is a step in the right direction.”

The next step is a Feb. 2 meeting between Smith and school officials to discuss the issue, he said.

SRO programs in Martinsville and Henry County school divisions also provide only partial coverage.

Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers said city elementary schools are not covered by SROs. Coverage is only provided at Martinsville High School and Martinsville Middle School.

Rogers said the city pays for one SRO and the school division pays for the other position.

He did not immediately know the annual cost but said it is “the officer’s pay and benefits.”

In Henry County, Sheriff Lane Perry said SROs are assigned to middle and high schools.

When the SRO program first began, Perry said there were hopes of expanding it into elementary schools. But that did not happen, mainly because of budget and staff cuts of the last few years, he said.

The sheriff’s office pays for one of the officers, and the school board pays for three, the sheriff said.

The program initially was developed based on past experiences of school violence in other areas, such as the 1999 shooting rampage in Columbine High School in Colorado.

“The concept is that traditionally,” school violence occurs in middle and high schools and generally is thought to be the result of bullying or one student’s reaction to another student’s actions, Perry said.

“It is totally shocking that society has come to this point that any child is in danger and especially elementary students,” Perry said. “Now, it’s just the targeting of innocent children.”


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