Damariscotta Police Chief Jason Warlick will discuss the idea of a school resource officer at Great Salt Bay Community School with the Great Salt Bay School Committee at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 11.
Warlick said a couple of school committee members approached him with the idea a couple of months ago.
The school committee will consider whether to put a line in the budget “to address school safety issues,” Central Lincoln County School System interim Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said.
If the committee decides to put money aside for safety, it would then need to consider whether to spend the money on a school resource officer.
“The board is really torn on this issue. The citizens will get to decide ultimately,” Hodgkin said.
“For the law enforcement agency, we prepare for the worst all the time and hope that we never have to use that training. So a school resource officer is no different,” Warlick said.
“A school resource officer is a risk manager … They’re dealing with those problems hopefully before they erupt into something that maybe can’t be fixed,” Warlick said.
Warlick has toured other schools that have resource officers, and has been amazed at the number of students who come to the officers with information. “This is just because he made a positive impact with the kids,” Warlick said.
“The officer gets to know these students on a first-name basis,” Warlick said.
During the school year, the officer would deal with any concerns that the school administration might have, make connections with students, set up emergency response plans, conduct drug and alcohol intervention, work with guidance counselors, and deal with parking complaints, among other duties.
“Anything on school grounds, the SRO would be responsible for the safety of that event,” Warlick said.
The officer would spend a small amount of time in classrooms, however, “their job isn’t to take away from the child’s education, their job is to add to it,” Warlick said.
In the summer months, the officer would work for the police department, possibly as a traffic enforcement officer.
Boothbay Harbor, Waldoboro, and Wiscasset have school resource officers, and a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy serves as school resource officer at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.
“I’m excited to see how this is going to go,” Warlick said.
“I am in 100 percent support of having one, but at the same time I need to know the feedback from the community. Because inevitably it’s their kids that are going there, it’s their tax dollars. If they don’t want it, then I support that too,” Warlick said.
Across the U.S., school resource officers became more commonplace during the 1990s, and even more so after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, according to a March 4 article in The New York Times.
“As the memory of that shooting faded and local budgets tightened, their ranks thinned in many places. Now there are calls for installing more of them in schools across the country, with new positions announced in a number of districts just this past week,” the newspaper reported.
The April 11 meeting will take place in the GSB library.