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Warrensburg school board votes

Warrensburg Board of Education President Doug West, right, counts the yes votes from his board on whether the district should hire school resource officers for this school year. The topic has been debated for months in the district after the majority of other districts in the area made SRO hires last year. 

WARRENSBURG — After several failed attempts over the past year, the Warrensburg Board of Education approved a motion to hire school resource officers in the district Monday night.

The majority of districts in Warren and Washington counties approved similar measures this time last year as scrutiny on school security rose after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February 2018.

The motion passed 5-2, with Ash Anand and board President Doug West voting against.

West said after the meeting he thinks the district’s schools were already very safe and there was already a host of support services in the district for students that can handle the educational aspects of many SRO job descriptions.

“Schools, in general, are very safe. We’ve planned and taken every precaution we can,” West said. “There are no guarantees and there’s no guarantee an SRO would be in the right place at the right time if they were ever needed in a physical situation.”

The issue has been front and center at many board meetings in recent months, and the district also held a school safety forum to lay out the safety measures already in place in the district and hear concerns from the community.

The safety session and other comments from the public played a role in board Vice President Nicole Winchell changing her earlier no votes to a yes at the meeting Monday. She said she was responding to what she heard from voters, and her role was to represent them.

“My personal opinion is the opposite,” Winchell said. “However, the community wanted it, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

The issue was prominent in the election, and board member Darren Duell voiced support for the hiring in his bid for the seat in May. Duell won his seat by ousting incumbent and consistent “no” voter Elaine Cowin.

He said he was glad the measure got through and it was a positive for the district.

“Just because it’s a small school and a small area, you never know what could happen,” Duell said. “I look forward to seeing what it does for the kids, the relationship some kids or most kids have with the police and the safety of the school.”

Duell said having police at the school will keep kids from having a fear of police and prevent potentially volatile interactions in the future.

West refuted this claim and said it is not the role of the school system to build relationships between schools and police, and the interactions between an SRO and a student are unlikely to override the opinions students receive from their parents at home.

Superintendent John Goralski said the district is compiling job descriptions from other districts in the area to create a role specific to Warrensburg.

He said in addition to standard security duties there will be educational aspects regarding safety around issues such as Halloween safety for elementary students and staying safe during events such as prom for high school students.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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