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Livingston parish school administrators excited about hiring more resource officers

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 8:00pm

The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and the school district want an additional four resource officers to patrol schools around the parish.

Sheriff Jason Ard told the Livingston Parish School Board he could provide four additional, senior deputies to serve as campus resource officers. Denham Springs, Walker, and Watson schools already have resource officers, so the new officers would concentrate on the unincorporated parts of the parish.

The principal of Holden High School said she would gladly welcome the resource officer, because she and her colleagues have a unique set of demands.

"Sometimes it is very hard, being a pre-K through 12, we go in different directions and see different things all day," Paula Green said.

Having a resource officer to interact with students would help promote the school's community feel.

"We get them when they're little," she said, "and we help raise them up and see them out of school, so that's a very positive thing that we have going on in Holden."

Ard wants the officers to begin their specialized training in May, so they could be ready for the start of the new school year in August. He said school security is an especially critical issue for him because he has two school-aged children.

The sheriff's office wants to split the cost with the district, which could be a problem. Each officer would cost roughly $80,000 in salary and benefits, and the district will struggle to find that much money.

"It will be difficult to find the room in the budget for anything at this time," Superintendent John Watson said. "However, we're going to look, and we think it's important enough that we're going to do our best to make that happen."

Resource officers are seen as one of the best ways to prevent trouble in schools, because they can identify problems before they begin.

"Kids are kids, wherever you go," Green said, "but sometimes you just need a person to help settle things down and just to be around, that kids know, like I said, that they could talk to or go to."

While the district looked at cheaper alternatives, Watson believes the officers provide a better value, because they create a safer, more comforting environment than a metal detector can.

"A person could give that personable feeling to the students," Green agreed. "You know, a metal detector, they're good, sometimes in certain situations. But we're just not comfortable using those at Holden."

Green believes the resource officer would provide a sense of security for all members of the school community, not just students.

"And we like for our parents to feel that way," she said. "Because when they send their child to school every day, we see them a lot more, sometimes, than the parents do.

"It won't replace we we're already doing, or it won't change anything that we're doing, except that it would be two more eyes to be, and two more ears to be on campus and just helping us to maybe avoid a bad situation."

The district's budget committee is close to presenting its plan for the 2013-14 school year, with instructions to find ways to afford the officers.

Watson said he hopes board members will be able to vote on the issue at their next meeting on March 7.  


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