SRO Plan Needs Direction

School resource officers can play a vital role in a school district in addition to providing an additional layer of safety for school children and staff.

Knowing this, it’s difficult to dismiss a suggestion by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association to provide at least one state-funded school resource officer in every grade and high school throughout the state. The association’s proposal, though, needs some work before it can be seriously considered.

Assuming a $50,000 salary, it would cost roughly $237 million to place one state-funded school resource officer in every one of the state’s 4,750 public schools. Add the state’s 2,000 private schools means adding another $100 million to the program. That’s a huge financial commitment that the state may not be able to make — which is part of the reason the school resource officer program bloomed years ago before fizzling out. As dollars got tight, the funding agencies pulled out and left the financial burden on local school districts to pay. Few local districts can justify a school resource officer over funding a teaching position.

There is a way to help pay for the positions, but we’re not sure if there is political will to do so. Remember, we know that the Panama and Clymer school districts are leaving $1.4 million in savings on the table by not merging. That $1.4 million would pay for a school security officer in nearly every school building in Chautauqua County. We’re sure there are similar cost savings possible throughout the state, but again doubt the political will to make such a decision.

Let’s also not pretend that simply having a deputy on school grounds is a panacea. There was a deputy on the grounds of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and 17 children are still dead. If this proposal from the state Sheriff’s Association moves forward, the deputies would need to prove they are capable of the type of work necessary. School resource officer positions can’t just be for show — the deputies would have to be willing and able to stop an active shooter situation.

Providing police in schools isn’t a bad idea, but the state Sheriff’s Association’s proposal needs a lot more thought before it should be considered for state funding.