West Carroll Board Exploring Cops for School
BY JOEL WASHBURN
ATWOOD (March 1) — West Carroll School Board is considering the addition of one or more student resource officers (SRO) –certified police officers with an added endorsement of SRO to work in the school system. The board will meet soon for a special meeting to consider adding one or more SROs in the schools.
Meeting last Thursday at the West Carroll Junior/Senior High School cafeteria, the board heard from Sheriff Andy Dickson about the contract the county and McKenzie Special School District have to provide a single SRO, who is a POST-certified officer with the special SRO training.
Sheriff Dickson said MSSD pays the county $49,000 per year to provide the one SRO. The county and school district developed a contract for services. Officer Nick Lowe is an employee of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and assigned exclusively to McKenzie schools. Dickson said the officer works in the various school buildings as assigned by school officials. He also attends home Cops
and away sports games. Officer Lowe develops safety plans for the school, teachings DARE and serves as the liaison between the school and law enforcement. The SRO’s patrol car, uniform, health insurance, and liability insurance are provided by the CCSO.
Dickson said he is also talking with Clarksburg and Hollow Rock-Bruceton about adding SROs. Huntingdon is working with the Huntingdon Police Department to add SROs. McKenzie has had an SRO for approximately 20 years.
WSSD Board Member Mike Foster said he supports adding an SRO, however, it will solve all the problems. The school’s mission is to provide a safe environment. He noted many of the problems are societal.
Director of Schools Dexter Williams said he arrived at West Carroll as a principal three years ago. When he first arrived, there were no locks on the doors. Now every door is locked and persons attempting to enter the building must be buzzed in.
Williams said he is in favor of an SRO. “One SRO is a good start.” However, he noted that the students cannot be protected from all possible threats, such as when students practice or play outdoor sports.
Board Member William Robertson said the Junior/Senior High School conducted a safety drill last week that included law enforcement, fire department, Homeland Security, teachers, administrators. The lockdown drill was well planned and everyone was aware it was to occur. Following the drill, school officials and law enforcement have a better idea for improvements to the safety plan.
It was also announced the school has contracted for trained canines to periodically patrol the campus beginning next school year. The dogs will arrive unannounced and search for drugs, weapons and alcohol.
Several parents spoke from the audience concerning the need for SROs following the school shooting in Florida. Board Member Patrick Lindsey wanted the board to immediately vote on adding an SRO. Some parents demanded an immediate response and the hiring of SROs. One parent said the Florida shooting took only six minutes. A single SRO in West Carroll could not move from location to one of the other two sites in six minutes. He recommended one SRO in each school.
Board member Patrick Lindsey said his constituents wanted SROs. He pressed for an immediate vote to add SROs to the school. Lindsey made the motion to hire SROs.
Chairman Jimmy Halford said Lindsey’s motion did not follow the board’s policies. He said the matter must be studied and a budget approved for an SRO.
Lindsey insisted, however, Halford, as chairman, did not recognize the motion.
Halford called for the special meeting to discuss the matter. He directed Williams to poll board members to determine the best time to meet.
If the board had voted to add SROs, Sheriff Dickson said he had no officers available with the SRO endorsement. POST-certified officers would have to go through special training offered only in the summer, said Dickson. The earliest a fully certified SRO would be available would be next school year.