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It's time for a SRO in each school building

A little over 20 years ago, the leaders of Pendleton County joined forces to rebuild our community from the devastation of the flood. The vision for the county grew out of that event and our home has been better because of it. It’s time that our community
leaders come together again. Not for reaction of a life-altering event but rather for the prevention of one.

Our nation has been gripped in an increase of mass shootings at locations whether it is churches, movie theaters or possibly the worse, schools. The Pendleton County Board of Education had two presentations on school safety
at their April 24 meeting. One area all agreed on was more School Resource Officers throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Pendleton County has one SRO with a rotating cast of Deputy Sheriff’s providing a second law enforcement presence.
That arrangement will only continue throughout the end of the school year. But what is the plan for the future in protecting what was consistently referred to that night as our “the most precious thing to us,” the children?

Littered among the 80-100 people in attendance were leaders from all parts of your county. It is time for those same people to come together as was done after March of 1997 and set aside their budgetary boundaries they have been drawn and fund a School Resource Officer in each of the four schools. It is imperative that our community bands together and sends the message that we know that our children are the most important and precious resource that we have and we will earmark funds to protect them. The councils and mayors of the cities of Falmouth and Butler, the magistrates and judge from the Pendleton County Fiscal Court, the members and superintendent of the Pendleton County Board of Education in collaboration
with the police departments of Butler and Falmouth and the Pendleton County Sheriff’s Department must make this happen. Just as the leaders of Pendleton County came together to provide a vision post-flood, our leaders today must boldly have the same vision to protect what we all hold must dear.

 Beyond the obvious benefits of school safety, there are other potential benefits to our communities. Pendleton County, like the rest of the country, has not been immune to an obvious drug problem. A SRO in each building can lead an aggressive drug awareness program with each building. In developing daily, positive relationships with kids it could potentially pay dividends in that battle to keep them off of drugs. Many of the households were children are being raised have a daily life of drugs and crime and are hearing a message to not trust nor like law enforcement. There is little contact between those impressionable, young minds and law enforcement to combat that negative imagery. But that one-sided lesson can be offset by a daily, positive relationship with law enforcement in the school paying huge dividends in that child’s future.

Schools face disruption far too often from upset parents and students. At the meeting, Board Member Karen Delaney recalled from her teaching and administration days at Pendleton County High School incidents that the SRO was able to de-escalate incidents with an upset parent, adult or student. What could happen to the atmosphere at each of our schools if an SRO was present using their substantial training to handle these situations and allow teachers to teach the other 20-23 students in their classroom?

An officer there who is extensively trained in these situations would be a plus to the learning environment in all four schools. If the program is structured correctly, couldn’t the City of Butler be better served with a SRO assigned to Northern Elementary and aligned with their police department. They could potentially be patrolling the streets of Butler during those times of the year that school is not in session. Not to mention the access of information that a SRO has through school records that the police does not. The same could be said of a SRO working at Southern Elementary and the Falmouth Police Department. As well as two SRO’s, one each at PCHS and Sharp, aligned with the Pendleton Sheriff’s Office.

These budgetary boundaries that have been drawn around each’s pot of money did not stop Pendleton County from rebounding from the flood. It should not stop Pendleton County from protecting our youth and allow teachers to simply teach. Board Chairman Dr. Shawn Nordheim alluded that she knew the Pendleton County Schools’ budget well and there simply was not the funds in it to provide a SRO in each building. She also mentioned that this year when Boone County schools followed the route of providing a SRO in each of their schools, it meant a cut in certified and classified staff. We contacted the Superintendent of Boone County Schools, Randy Poe, concerning that statement. He replied via email, “That is not an accurate statement. We did not cut any positions due to budget concerns. We planned cuts due to State Budget but all were restored when the budget was passed at the legislative level.”

Mark Filburn during his presentation talked on funding and the question “How do we find the funding?” His response should speak volumes to all. “How do we not find the funding?”

It is time for our leaders to be visionaries in prevention as those in the past were in reacting. It is time for them to come together and make this financially work starting with the 2018-19 school year.

As a newspaper staff, we do not ever want the task of being like the staff of the Marshall County Tribune-Courier or the Sun Sentinel in Parkland, Fla. and having to cover one of the worse stories imaginable.

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