Parental input sought on school resource officers

Published 8:16 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office has submitted a proposal to the School Board to add four full-time resource officers to better protect and serve the school district’s campuses.

Under the plan, the Sheriff’s Office and School Board would enter into a joint service agreement to split the costs of providing school resource positions to cover every school in the parish on a rotating schedule with a focus on the middle and high schools, including the alternative school. Most officers will be assigned to two schools.

The Sheriff’s Office and School Board would split the employment costs for the officers, according to Sheriff Doug Hebert III. The cost is estimated at $220,561.44 annually, which will be split between the two.

Email newsletter signup

The Sheriff’s Office will cover the cost of uniforms, vehicle, car insurance, cell phones, portable radios and training.

The officers will be assigned to patrolling or other duties when school is not in session, Hebert said.

The School Board took no action on the plan Monday, deciding instead to get feedback from parents on the possibility of placing resource officers in the school this fall.

“We just want to get the opinion of the public before we make a decision to move forward with this,” Superintendent Kent Reed said.

Allen Parish voters narrowly rejected a proposal in 2013 to increase property taxes to pay for school resource officers. The millage was defeated by a vote of 1,141 to 1,042, or 52 percent against.

The 10-year, 7.5 mill property tax would have generated $630,000 annually to hire, train and equip officers and provide for security upgrades for the parish’s public schools.

“I’ve always believed it was a funding issue, not something they didn’t want,” Hebert said.

The Sheriff’s Office financial position has changed in the last decade and it now has the funds to do a cost split with the School Board to put school resource officers in schools without having to increase taxes, Hebert said.

“It’s never ever stopped being a want of mine….a need for the schools for the safety of parents and kids,” Hebert said. “We really believe that from safety mentoring and so many other things that school resource officers will allow us to partner with the school system and keep our kids safe and help give them a better chance for tomorrow.”

Hebert said he is willing to invest half the cost along with the School Board to provide for the resource officers.

The officers will be required to be post certified, attend a 40-hour training session and have a minimum of two years law enforcement experience.

“Our biggest challenge will be identifying those folks, whether within our ranks or outside, that we are comfortable with, that is the right person to be in the school,” Hebert said. “We are not just going to stick somebody in there. It’s going to be a stringent hiring process.”

Responsibilities of the officers will include school security and ensuring that student drop-offs and pick-ups run smoothly and safely. They will also be present at ballgames, other extra curricular activities and during summer school. They will also be available to handle fights among students and concerns for disgruntled parents.

“I hope that at some point, if we get the right people, that there will be some opportunities for some mentoring,” Hebert said. “There are some students on the edge that could use that. It also allows us to find out what is going on at home and maybe we can do other things to intervene, so it is not just sticking a security guard in the schools. I want this to give every kid a better chance and keep our kids safe.”

Hebert said the resources officers will work closely with principals to establish areas where they are most needed, but will not interfere with the daily discipline of school administrators. Principals will still be in charge, he said.

“Our intentions are to be an asset, not a problem,” Hebert said.

“We have needed this for many, many years for our parish,” board member Carolyn Manuel said. “We have just been really fortunate in this parish that we haven’t had incidents like we see on TV. I would feel better knowing at least we are making this effort to do the best that we can by the schools and the students we serve.”

Board member Jason Turner said the presence of police officers in the school may change the way people act and deter them from bringing weapons, drugs and other outside threats onto campus.

Board member Karen Reed said having DARE officers in and out of the schools has been a really big plus for schools as far as visibility of the Sheriff’s Office.