BOE vote on SROs should be YES

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education will make a handful of important decisions as it readies to wrap up the 2012-2013 academic year and head into the 2013-2014 calendar.

Per usual, the board’s agendas will include potential cuts, new hires and calendar adoption among other things. However, one of the most important votes the board will make will come when it casts its lot either for or against retaining two school resource officers.

The school currently has an agreement with the Demopolis Police Department in which it pays approximately $33,000 to make sure that DPD officer Marcus Williams serves as a constant resource on the campuses of both Westside Elementary School and U.S. Jones Elementary School.

The deal, which came in the wake of last December’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. is an extension of a previous agreement in which the DPD agreed to post William Gulley at the Demopolis Middle School and Demopolis High School campuses as a SRO.

The BOE’s agreement with the DPD expires May 24. If no extension is reached, the system’s four campuses will go back to being patrolled by just one officer.

Now that the dust has started to settle nationally on the Newtown tragedy, the natural tendency for many will be to revert to the mentality that such things cannot happen here and cannot happen to people we know.

It easy to forget that Newtown is just the most recent in a line of tragedies that knows no prejudice. Over the years, that line has included places like Jonesboro, Ark., Columbine, Colo. and so many points in between.

But, the truth is that SROs are about much more than avoiding school shootings and large-scale tragedies. Other than generally helping to ensure order, they are able to keep to a watchful eye on the daily comings and goings of those who should be on campus and those who should not.

They act as tremendous resources to faculty and administration during both emergency and routine circumstances.

But, maybe more than anything, the school resource officers in Demopolis take on a little extra importance because they are one of the few true security measures in place within the system to protect our community’s most precious resources.

Following the Newtown tragedy, the school board commissioned DPD chief Tommie Reese to assess the security of all four of its campuses. That endeavor resulted in a sizable list of recommendations for changes that are both needed and costly.

With the economic climate being what it currently is, carrying out that list will take a considerable amount of time. But the one thing the school board can do at this point to help guarantee the safety of local students could come as a manageable expense. It won’t require any construction, expansion or renovation. All it takes is an extension.