School board, police discuss school resource officer for middle school
DARIEN — In the aftermath of the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, town officials are weighing the merits of adding a school resource officer at Middlesex Middle School.
At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Darien Police Chief Ray Osborne expounded on the role of an SRO and while the presentation provided an overall picture of what an officer might do at the middle school, Board of Education member Jill McCammon focused in on the topic that has worried parents and residents since the Parkland, Fla. school shooting in February.
“Given the recent environment and the focus on security, it sounds like the need for this SRO isn’t really security driven as much as it’s about a healthy environment for the school as opposed to the need of having someone with a gun on their hip in the school for security reasons,” McCammon said. “Can you speak to that?”
Osborne responded that security was indeed a role of the SRO.
“We focus on the overall big picture,” the police chief said. “There is a security aspect to it no doubt. There is an armed police officer there in the event of an emergency, but there is much more to the role than just a security presence.”
According to Osborne, towns in Fairfield County like Trumbull, Newtown, Redding, Shelton, Wilton, Ridgefield, Norwalk, Bethel, Danbury and New Canaan all have an SRO at their middle schools.
Board of Education Chairperson Tara Ochman asked Middlesex Middle School Principal Shelley Somers about her thoughts on the ongoing conversation.
“This is obviously a decision that we support for many reasons,” Somers said. “Part of providing a safe environment for students to learn is having people they can contact and relate to and that’s how I envision the SRO working at the middle school.”
Darien High School already boasts an SRO, a position Officer Bryan Wallman has filled since 2016. Wallman, as well as Detective James Palmieri who preceded him in the role, were on hand Tuesday to answer any questions the school board might have.
The possible addition of an SRO to Middlesex is taking place while the Board of Finance is reviewing the town and education budgets. They are scheduled to issue a final vote April 16.
“What we’re doing is deciding how we see this role in our school,” Ochman added. “We would request a position, if so desired, and the funding and implementation of that position would fall to the town and police department so this really will be a collective effort as we go forward with this conversation.”
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has voiced her support for continuing the conversation regarding additional security at Middlesex, citing a “renewed interest in addressing school safety” during a Board of Selectmen meeting earlier this month.