School board suggests adding middle school School Resource Officer
DARIEN — The Board of Education took another step toward bringing a second school resource officer to the district on Tuesday night.
The board voted 7-1 in favor of recommending that a resource officer be stationed at Middlesex Middle School in response to safety concerns raised after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Board member Dennis Maroney was the lone dissenting vote. Michael Burke was not present for the vote.
“I’m not sure that middle school students — how they’re going to be affected by a police officer in the school,” Maroney said. “I think it would behoove us, if we go forward with this SRO, that this person would have additional training for adolescence.”
Maroney said a Memorandum of Understanding between the school and the police department should be drawn up before an official decision is reached in order to explain the SRO’s roles and responsibilities. Specifically, Maroney said it was necessary to clearly list whether administrators and staff or the SRO had control in various potential situations.
Echoing Maroney’s point about drafting a MOU, board member Jill McCammon stressed the importance of a clear job description for the potential role.
“Typically when you have interagency agreements, an MOU follows. It makes great sense,” Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner said.
Brenner said the SRO’s role would not primarily have to do with security. Instead, Brenner said the SRO would build relationships with students in the hopes of deterring or intervening in dangerous or rule-breaking behavior.
“I don’t think that in any SRO model, that the primary function is security. In fact, what it is is a presence — a legal, law enforcement presence inside of the school — that helps students navigate decision-making in the context of the administration,” he said.
Brenner said the SRO would only function in a security role in the event of an emergency. He cited certain behaviors usually associated with high school students — like vaping — that have trickled down to the middle school that the presence of an SRO might help curb.
Earlier this year, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson voiced her support for continued conversation about a middle school SRO. Middlesex Middle School Principal Shelley Somers said at a March meeting she supported creating another SRO position.
According to Board of Education Chairwoman Tara Ochmann, upon the board’s request to create the position, funding and implementation would pass to the town and police department. The position was not part of the town budget approved on Monday.
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