Stirpe: School resource officers help students learn in a safe environment

The last place a child should ever feel threatened is at school. Our schools should be safe and intellectually nurturing, but tragedies in places like Parkland, Fla., make it clear that we’re not doing enough to make this a reality.

While outlandish ideas such as arming our teachers have been proposed, there are commonsense measures we can take that aren’t drastic or short-sighted.

In conversations with parents, administrators and concerned community members, there is one plan that has widespread support: increasing the number of school resource officers. They are responsible for safety and crime prevention on school grounds. They wear many hats and often are the first adult a child sees when they enter school each day.

SROs not only prevent and respond to emergencies, but also help create educational programs, prevent drug abuse, curb violence and can complement existing school counseling resources. As the need for these vital officers increases, we must make it easier for trained personnel who know our communities to fulfill these roles, such as retired police officers.

That’s why I introduced legislation to create a comprehensive training program so that retired officers hired for this important role have the training they need to protect students (A.6456). Training would include tactical response, in addition to community policing techniques that would work with school mental health professionals to identify and prevent problems before incidents occur.

The measure would rely on BOCES as a central resource for retired-officer SRO training and certification. The legislation would also leave it up to school districts whether they wanted to use these trained officers or continue to contract with local police departments, though I’ve already heard from districts that want to participate, as employing more retired law enforcement officers is also cost-effective and could save districts money in the long run.

Keeping our families and students safe has always been my top priority, and I’ll make sure this year’s budget includes measures to better protect our communities. From pushing bills to strengthen school safety measures to fighting for more funding for local schools, I’m working every day to give our kids the quality education they deserve.

If you have questions about this or any other community issue, feel free to contact my office at 315.452.1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

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