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School officers future options discussed

By JOYANNA LOVE

Senior Staff Writer

The Chilton County Board of Education met to discuss school safety with principals and local law enforcement during a work session on March 15.

The BOE plans to create a Safe School Taskforce to develop strategies and funding ideas for school safety.

Law enforcement leaders from each department in the county gave feedback on having officers in the schools. Each reiterated that the program was going well, and they hoped to see it continue in the future.

Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said having an officer in the schools has allowed them to address safety issues and prevent problems. Feedback from school staff and parents has also been positive.

Fulmer said the goal would be to expand to have an officer in each school the entire day.

“I’ve advocated for it for the past four or five years,” Fulmer said.

Because some cities have more schools than others, the coverage of schools may vary in some ways from school to school.

However, each school has an officer present at some point during the day.

Some school administrators said they would like to see an officer there all day.

School Board member Jim Shannon said seven officers at $20 an hour would cost $270,000 a year and provide coverage for each school. Most would have a designated officer all day at this price.

“I think this board should seriously consider finding some way we can do this,” Shannon said.

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock said establishing a designated School Resource Officer for each school would require additional support from local governments. The city of Clanton has funded an SRO for Clanton schools for the past three years. This school year an additional officer was added.

“We understand that in the smaller municipalities that is a little bit harder to do,” Glasscock said. “But we are going to be calling on the mayors.”

Glasscock said he has also heard from County Commissioners that are interested in having the county contribute funds.

Board of Education member Pam Price asked the police chiefs how they would prefer officers in the program to be paid in the future.

“Other school systems do it by giving you the money and let you cut the check do the taxes and all that,” Price said. “… Is it better off on our payroll?”

Fulmer said he would like a future SRO to be completely under his supervision and paid through the police department, since this would be the officer’s sole job.

“They would be on my payroll,” Fulmer said. “They would get paid based on my pay scale.”

An invoice would then be sent to the school system for the person’s salary, Fulmer said.

However, with the current program of using off-duty officers, Fulmer said it works better for the school system to pay for their time at the school, so they do not run into overtime.

Clanton Chief Keith Maddox said he felt it would work best if the school systems paid the municipalities, which would then allocate the funds to the police departments.

Thorsby Police Chief Rodney Barnett and Maplesville Police Chief Todd Ingram said it would be best for the school system to pay the officer directly for accounting purposes.

Cameron Bates, who teaches the Public Service Academy at LeCroy Career Technical Center, highlighted how this academy equips students interested in law enforcement to be safety conscious while in school.

“We teach them emergency care provider, which teaches them CPR, first aid and AED, so if they should be in your schools and see a kid pass out, they know what to do they are certified,” Bates said

They are also trained in response to an active shooter situation.

“They know where to hide, what to do to fight to barricade,” Bates said.

This is in addition to police training.

Each school in Chilton County has a plan in place to address an active shooter situation. School administrators have attended training in dealing with this situation in the past. The possibility of another training session was discussed during the meeting.

Glasscock said threats about violent acts at a school have been researched and usually take a week of law enforcement’s time, but usually the case is dismissed if the school did not go on lockdown.

“If there is an imminent threat at your school, lock it down,” Glasscock said. “Call the police. We are going to call that a disruption to the learning environment and take it as far as we can go … we are at the point where we are going to have to set an example.”

Safety concerns with school facilities was also discussed. Several police chiefs and administrators mentioned doors being propped open as a major concern. A walk through to list potential safety issues at each school will be conducted next week. Adding secondary entrances that require visitors to be buzzed in was also discussed.

Jemison Elementary School Principal Scott Ingram said safety concerns with the school buildings “should be addressed.”

The state is expected to release additional funding for school security later this year.