AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Monday, the Akron Board of Education is expected to discuss a proposed reduction in the number of school resource officers in the district’s 46 buildings from 18 to 14.
Director of Student Support and Security Dan Rambler says the proposal takes into consideration not only the responsible use of the district’s budget, but the fact that there has been a duplication of officers in several buildings following the consolidation of several schools in recent years.
“When we started merging buildings a few years ago and we put Roswell Kent and Innes together and then we put Kenmore and Garfield together, we kept two officers in those buildings,” explained Rambler. “We were able to reduce an officer in each of those locations and then additionally we have a couple of buildings that are like a combination of middle school/high school. At Buchtel and East Community Learning Centers, one of them is grades 7-12 and the other is grades 6-12. We had two officers, two SROs at both of those buildings.”
The district in recent years has had an agreement with the city of Akron in which the school district paid the hourly salary of its school resource officers while the city paid for the officers’ insurance and benefits.
Under a revised agreement the district will be paying more of its school resource officers’ benefits.
“As a district I know that obviously we need to be cautious in the money we are spending and use the tax, the taxpayers money the best we can and appropriately while also making sure we are keeping the people and the staff and the students and the community safe,” said Rambler.
Even with the reduction the district would be paying more for the decreased number of school resource officers.
The proposal would also include two officers who would be ‘floating’ throughout the district and available as needed at any of the buildings.
“If you are in a middle school or a high school you are still going to have an SRO in your building, there’s not going to be a change to that, so what it always has been, will still be,” he added.
The district started its new school year entirely online, so its resource officers have been reassigned to patrol duty until students come back to the buildings.
Rambler said, in general, people seem to have a misunderstanding about the importance of having police officers in its school buildings.
Nationally there has been a greater emphasis on a law enforcement presence at schools following tragic school shootings including Columbine in 1999 and more recent shootings like Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
“I think sometimes people think that a school resource officer is just an officer in the school and they are going to arrest kids and do all these sorts of things it’s the part that’s not really factual,” said Rambler.
“Especially, as we have the questions about police and their involvement in the community in general, I think it’s really important that we look at how do we build relationships with kids and especially with police in the schools. It’s a great opportunity to do that because it’s just a normal environment that you can interact with law enforcement and have a different type of relationship,” he said.
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