WARRENSBURG — Resource officers, police officers stationed in schools to provide protection and mentoring to students and faculty, have gained popularity in light of recent school shootings, and many districts in the region introduced them to their campuses this past fall.
Warrensburg school district is one of only two Warren County districts without a school resource officer — Johnsburg is the other — but some people in Warrensburg would like to change that.
A few members of the community created WCSD Parents in Support of School Resource Officer, a Facebook group formed to bring attention to the school board’s decision not to add a school resource officer this year, according to Erin McGrath, an administrator of the group.
Warren County Sheriff’s Officers Thomas Murphy and John Marchello said it didn’t take long for students to come around to them.
Superintendent John Goralski said the board considered the issue at a meeting last July, but the motion did not receive the four votes it needed to pass.
McGrath has attended several of the last board meetings and was joined on Monday by Warren County Sheriff Nathan “Bud” York.
York said he would prefer to see an officer in Warrensburg, but he was more concerned community members had not had a chance to give their input on the decision.
“I’m all for democracy, and if the public doesn’t want it, I don’t have a problem with that,” York said. “But I don’t think people have been able to voice their opinion one way or the other yet.”
McGrath said she has had no outlets outside of board meetings to voice her support for a school resource officer.
“I am personally in adamant support of the Warren County SRO program and feel that the community stakeholders should have a forum in which to discuss the program objectively, which the district has not offered,” McGrath said.
In an earlier interview, Goralski said he agreed the process should be democratic and open, and if enough people voiced their support for a resource officer, the board would notice.
“If the community voices a strong enough opinion on the matter, then the school board will respond,” Goralski said.
More recently Goralski said the district has planned a school safety forum for March to hear input on the issue and safety more broadly. The forum will take place during the regularly scheduled board workshop on March 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Goralski said the district is doing many things to ensure the wellness and safety of students, and he will highlight efforts the district has already made.
He said the district has taken a proactive approach with the social and mental health of students by having full-time social workers and counselors in the roles of student mentors. Goralski said the primary benefit of an officer is acting as a resource for students, a role he thinks the district is already providing in other ways.
“We are trying to take preventative actions so we don’t get to the point where we need a resource officer,” Goralski said. “The value of a school resource officer is not in the fact that they’re carrying a gun.”
School Board President Doug West said in an email the district is considering several options for school safety.
The district has held parent and board workshops on stress and trauma in students, and has a partnership with Parson’s Center for the Family to have licensed clinicians offer onsite mental health clinics to students and their families.
The district has also improved the security infrastructure of its buildings by adding more cameras around its campuses and a PA system to school entrances.
“I think that our schools are safe,” Goralski said. “I think our students and our staff are aware of the issues that face schools today and are well equipped to handle them.”