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Schools ask court for resource officer

Thursday, November 2, 2006

MAMMOTH SPRING -- The need for added security and help dealing with situations at his school prompted Mammoth Spring School Superintendent Ron Taylor to ask Fulton County Judge Charles Willett and members of the Fulton County Quorum Court for help in funding a school resource officer at the school.

Taylor addressed Willett and the court at their meeting Oct. 16.

Taylor told the court that a school resource officer (SRO) is a certified law enforcement officer who is assigned full time to a school. "The concept is similar to the 'officer on foot patrol' who knows the public he or she serves on a first-name basis and is sensitive to their particular needs," Taylor told the court.

Taylor said some students, like many adults, view deputies solely as enforcers of the laws. "Students who have positive interaction with SROs view law enforcement in an entirely different light. They see the officer as a friend and advisor and positive role model and someone to turn to in time of need," he said.

Taylor said his research into the program told him an officer can also act as a deterrent to criminal behavior through positive interactions with students and by his or her presence on the school campus.

"The SRO program has been implemented in over 40 states since its inception in 1951," Taylor said.

If the idea should become a reality, Taylor said he would like the SRO to agree to three responsibilities at the school.

"The officer would be 20-percent educator, 50-percent law enforcement officer and 30-percent counselor," he said.

He said in the educator role the SRO would visit classrooms and make presentations that concern student safety, traffic laws, general law and crime prevention. He said the SRO also can work with individual teachers to create special programs tailored to specific units of study.

"The law enforcer portion of the duties would involve working with school administrators and to investigate criminal violations which involve students as suspects or victims. The SRO counselor would encourage students to seek individual attention and be available for conferences with students, parents and staff regarding law-related issues or problems," he said.

Taylor presented an SRO job description to the quorum court, outlining 27 areas where the SRO would have to be proficient.

The quorum court did not make a decision on the request.

Following the meeting Willett said he would be in touch with state Sen. Paul Miller and state Rep. Curren Everett regarding the issue. "Maybe the upcoming legislative session will see some legislation that will help school districts fund such a position," Willett said.

Willett said this the first time an educator or administrator had made such a request of the court. "The county does not have the funds for such a position, but like I said before, maybe the state can help. Anymore, we read nearly every day where a tragedy has occurred somewhere at a school somewhere in our country," he said.

He said if funds would become available for an SRO at Mammoth Spring the other two school districts in the county, Salem and Viola, would be entitled to the same benefit.

Taylor said that if the SRO should become a reality, the officer would be beneficial to the sheriff's office.

"During the summer months, from when school is dismissed until school starts again in late August, the officer could be used to patrol the Spring River," Taylor said.

He said the officer would be an employee of the county and would contract with the Mammoth Spring School District through the months the school is in session.

Dillinger said he likes the idea.

"I think Mr. Taylor has a good idea. Of course, we hope nothing ever happens at any of our local schools or any other school. But there is always the possibility it could," he said.

The sheriff said he wished the SRO was something the county could provide and hopes in the future it will become a reality. "Mr. Taylor knows where I stand," Dillinger said.

The sheriff said that a full-time deputy is needed in Mammoth Spring.

"Even if we don't get an SRO at Mammoth Spring School, we need an officer in that area of the county," he said.

Dillinger said his plan is by August 2007 to have a full-time deputy at Mammoth Spring.

"We would like to hire a native of that portion of Fulton County. He would not only patrol the river but also the surrounding area," Dillinger said.

The sheriff said currently the only time a Fulton County deputy comes to Mammoth Spring is when legal papers need to be served or there is a law enforcement need for an officer.



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