"We have to take the fear out of school," Magistrate Bobby Fogle tells audience
At their regularly scheduled meeting, the Pendleton County Fiscal Court took up the issue of School Resource Officers in the Pendleton County Schools for the 2018-19 school year with a Memorandum of Understanding between them, Pendleton County Sheriff's Office and the school district.
After comments from concerned citizens in the the audience and before Sheriff Craig Peoples presented the memorandum, Judge Executive David Fields made the recommendation to table the item and allow a committee of Magistrates Alan Whaley and Bobby Fogle representing Fiscal Court meet with Superintendent Joe Buerkley and Sheriff Peoples concerning their issues and questions.
Magistrate Gary Veirs indicated he felt the tabling was the proper action but that the meeting needed to be "timely so that the school board could look at any changes and be ready for the school year to start."
Judge Fields pointed out Sheriff Peoples and Superintendent Buerkley had authored the agreement and the court received it early last week. With him gone on vacation, he had been playing catch up with things that arose while he was gone. The court had not had a real chance to look at and discuss the memo. The magistrates had questions and concerns concerning the agreement.
"SRO is an important part and we need to work together as best we can," said Judge Fields. "I have talked with Joe Buerkley and Karen Delaney and I think we can work it out. We are not turning this thing down but need to investigate it further."
Fogle said he had a nice conversation with the Superintendent and "I believe in the SRO and we need to let teachers teach and students learn. We need to take fear out of school. We will get it solved."
The motion to table the Memorandum of Understanding concerning School Resource Officers was approved by 4-0 vote.
Judge Fields directed the magistrates to have their suggestions to either Whaley or Fogle by the end of the week.
The meeting had a crowd of 13 individuals when it usually draws one or two.
Fred Roberts, who is retired from the police force and Army as well as teaches collegiate level classes at Pendleton County High School, spoke about his extensive experience in dealing with SRO's including his time as the City of Louisville Police Department School Liason. He was also part of a threat assessment team that made a visit to Pendleton County High School several years ago. He has worked with districts that had SRO's and schools that did not.
"However this issue goes, there are different ways to do it," he advised the court members. "There are things that can be done with policies and procedures and what (school) staff does on a daily basis."
The father of six, grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of three said, "This community is important to me. I live here and want to help."
Buerkley referred back to Roberts comments pointing out that they are working on several things to make schools safer. He added, "We have had a good collaboration with the Sheriff's Office and want to continue it."
PC Board Member Cheri Griffin echoed Buerkley's comments by listing "hardening of school campuses, adding bells and cameras at doors" as things the school district is doing.
She informed the court that when a second SRO was added in the spring, there were "less discipline problems" in the buildings. "This is not a school problem but a community problem. The officers and students are building relationships. They see them as someone they can talk to not just a person to fear. We need to help each other before something happens."
She shared information from fellow board member Karen Delaney that the number of students in school each day is almost as big as both cities in Pendleton County. One-sixth of Pendleton County goes to school each day it is in session.
"We need to utilize the trainiing of law enforcement," she said. "Tonight, I left a grandkid who is three pounds because this is so important to me. The extra officer will help and we will be sending out better citizens when they leave school."
Dr. Brian Schack said "what a SRO does goes beyond school." He pointed out that his wife, Laura who has filed her paperwork to run for a board member position in November, works with Foster Care System and in a recent case the testimony from the SRO moved the case along more than it would have with it.