Lincoln to add more school resource officers; Agreement will mean every campus will have its own SRO

Published 3:15 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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By Abigail Roberts


Following an incident involving an elementary student bringing a firearm to school, the Lincoln County School Board held a special-called meeting Monday to discuss ways to strengthen safety measures across the district.

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Following the discussion, the board voted unanimously to add three additional School Resource Officers to the SRO program, which will place a dedicated SRO at each school in the district.

At last week’s working board meeting, parents expressed concerns with safety and asked that the district consider implementing new procedures including metal detectors, clear backpacks and the addition of more School Resource Officers.

Before Monday’s meeting, the Lincoln County School District had a contract with the Stanford Police Department for four SROs.

Superintendent Bruce Smith recommended that the board add three more SRO positions, bringing the total to seven – which would place an SRO in every school in the district. The board honored that recommendation Monday.

“Since we do not have all schools covered, with House Bill 63, each year we have to get special permission from the state school security marshal so if we do this, we would be fully staffed and we would no longer have to,” Smith said.

“I think there are about 50 percent across the state that are fully funded.”

Stanford Police Chief Zach Middleton was on hand to answer questions during Monday’s meeting.

Board member Jennifer Broadbent asked if the SRO would be on campus from beginning to end of the school day.

Middleton said yes, but they do have to leave campus occasionally.

“Their main assignment is full time at the school,” he said.

Smith said while someone has not been permanently hired for the additional SRO position that was approved a few months ago, SPD has been providing the additional SRO coverage since the start of school. The position has been covered by alternating officers.

“Do you have any applicants left over from your hunting for them?” Chairman Etta Meek asked.

Middleton said it’s going to be a process getting the people in place.

“Until then, we will continue to hit every school and so far every school has coverage every day. It’s not all day. The high school, Chase is there all the time. At the Middle School, Kyle is there all the time,” he said.

Sgt. Chase Marcum, who oversees the SRO program was also on hand to answer questions.

Meek asked Marcum for a general overview of how things are going for SRO’s.

“What are the reports you get from SROs out there about our schools? Are they keeping their doors locked? Are they doing the safety things they’re supposed to?” Meek asked.

Marcum said he knows first-hand the high school and middle school is following protocols and Officer Ray Sayre, who covers the elementary schools, has not raised any flags as far as schools not abiding by safety policies.

“Everyone seems to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Marcum said.

Board member Christine Killen said increasing the SRO program was one of her goals when running for school board.

“We’ve been working with Lee Ann (Smith, Director of Finance) on the cost. Of course that was the issue, but we may just have to do cuts in other areas,” Meek said.

Board member Gloria Sneed asked about how and when the SROs were used following the Highland Elementary school incident.

Middleton said it was requested that an officer be present at Highland all day for the week.

“We didn’t want to take away from the other schools so we kept that going as normal and just had patrol guys go cover that. When the SROs had to leave, we would send somebody up,” Middleton said.

Sneed said the board needs to compensate the officers who filled in during the time.

“I’m not sure extra SRO officers is the answer to this problem,” Sneed said. “I don’t know if we can scrap out metal detectors…if there had been two full-time SRO officers at Highland that day, the outcome would’ve been the same.”

Board member said she’s had the same thought.

“Of course we want you guys there, we want all the schools protected but it’s kind of like even if we go with the metal detectors or the clear backpacks there’s always going to be a loophole,” Broadbent said.

Middleton said there was a SRO at Highland that day, but he’s not sure what hours he was there.

“Even if I was there…I’m standing here right now, a kid walks by with a backpack I don’t know what’s in there,” Middleton said.

Middleton said if it was up to him there would be an SRO at every school, as well as metal detectors, and no backpacks at all.

“But that’s just me. I know that’s not practical. There’s no easy solution,” he said.

Stanford Mayor Dalton Miller said metal detectors could take a long time to get everyone inside the school.

SPD Capt. Ryan Kirkpatrick said the SRO doesn’t guarantee an incident won’t occur, but it helps deter crimes.

Killen said the district cannot prevent all incidents but she thinks the SRO program is the first line of defense.

Kirkpatrick said SRO’s build relationships with students.

“You push with the kids, at any level, ‘if you see something, say something,’” he said. “That enhances a lot of that detection. If they have a relationship with any of us, and we’re in the building every day, then when I see my friend doing something stupid, I’ve got somebody to immediately go tell. I’ve got a relationship with that guy and it’s going to streamline a lot of that process.”

Sneed asked how long it would take to equip all of the officers.

“We’ve already worked out some of the logistics on that,” Mayor Dalton Miller said. “We’re going to borrow some equipment until we can get new in.”

The problem is the need to purchase two police vehicles, he said.

“We don’t have enough cars,” he said. “We don’t have the money to go buy those two cars.”

Miller said he has located two used cars, one of which is $28,500 and one is $39,000, both fully equipped.

“The problem is coming up with that $64,000 that we don’t have,” he said.

Director of Finance Lee Ann Smith said the cost of the cars would be on the school district. Insurance and maintenance is the responsibility of the City of Stanford.

According to a statement released by the school district following the decision, the cost of providing seven SROs will be about $320,000 per school year, in addition to the cost of the vehicles. The money will come from the general fund as there are no funds allocated by the state to cover the costs.

Middleton said it is going to take some time to fill the positions.

“Like he said, he’s already got equipment and stuff lined out, putting people in that equipment is going to be a different story. We’ve already been working since the beginning of the school year for the one spot and really stepped up last week to find someone,” Middleton said. “The vote today doesn’t mean we’re going to have them before tomorrow and parents understand that, too. This is a step in a process. It’s going to take some time to get it fully resolved.”