Prairie School District considering School Resource Officer

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Prairie du Chien School District and the Prairie du Chien Police Department will make a contract for a school resource officer (SRO) to be presented at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 26.

If approved by the school board and the city of Prairie du Chien, the SRO will begin in January of 2023. 

Police Chief Kyle Teynor said the SRO will cost the school district approximately $58,000 the first year, $60,000 the second year, and $62,000 the third year. Teynor also noted, however, that there are always grants being explored to off-set costs. None have been awarded yet for this particular project, he said.

“This (the SRO) is another extension of our community policing efforts,” said Teynor. “It creates another relationship building principle to add to our ‘Cops and Bobbers’ event, our Citizen’s Academy, our ‘Stuff the Squad’ (that provides toys and food items during the holiday season), our Salvation Army Red Kettle efforts and our involvement with civic and community groups.”

Teynor said the position will be posted internally at the police department for officers to request the assignment to SRO. The appointment is anticipated in November or December.

The SRO would work 40 hours per week and would cover all district schools both public and private, said Teynor. 

“Clearly, a more consistent presence in the schools by law enforcement contains a preventative safety piece,” said Teynor about the increased safety that will be provided by the SRO. 

Teynor also noted, “This position allows for more familiarity with a common face and name as a resource for both staff and students. There are also many connections to activities that transpire outside of school that can have an impact on the student while in school. This position will provide that connection and allow for school counselors and law enforcement to better evaluate and help the student during their time in an intended learning environment.”

The Boscobel School District recently approved of an SRO. Also, Seneca, North Crawford and Wauzeka-Steuben all contract with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department for a shared position similar to that of an SRO. 

“There is still work to be done,” said Teynor about the proposed SRO. “There is final approval needed by the school board for the memorandum of understanding which outlines the position expectations and costs. The City Council and Finance Committee still need to vote and approve the same memorandum of understanding.”

“Students who report feeling safe in school are more engaged in class, have higher academic achievement, and have lower rates of absenteeism, truancy, and behavioral issues,” said High School Principal Doug Morris. “Educators who report feeling safe in school are better able to focus on academics, are more likely to remain in their positions, and are better equipped to teach and support students.”

Morris also noted, “Effective school-based law enforcement programs require more than simply assigning officers to schools. More established SRO programs are built on careful selection of the right officer, and training that SRO in well-defined roles and responsibilities. More robust school-based law enforcement programs involve a comprehensive agreement between the school and the law enforcement agency that fosters collaboration, communication, and ongoing evaluation.”

Morris said SRO programs that are implemented and sustained through a well-conceived, organized and comprehensive process can help prevent school-based violence, connect at-risk students to needed services, divert youth from juvenile court, and create safe, secure, and peaceful school environments. 

Among the very important roles of the SRO is that of informal counselor, said Morris. Positive relationships between the SRO and students are consistently identified as a key to success for SRO programs. Youth often view and turn to officers in the same way they might turn to parents or other adults in their lives, seeking out SROs to discuss issues. SROs can build trust and foster relationships with youth through formal and informal interactions. When youth are guided about a variety of challenging issues, such as underage drinking, stressful life situations, or even the illegality of school pranks, students can come to trust SROs to answer questions and address problems, which in turn enables the officers to identify at-risk students early.

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