Three months after the horrific school shooting in Newtown Connecticut, a task force focused on school security and student well-being has recommended placing School Resource Police Officers (SROs) at every Southlake public school. The goal is to have the officers in place by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
On March 19th, task force member and Southlake Police Chief Steve Mylett made the recommendation to the City Council explaining the plan’s history and importance.
“The goals of the SRO program include enhancing security on all Southlake public school campuses, reducing community fear regarding child safety, and reducing the likelihood of drug and alcohol use,” said Chief Mylett.
He also explained that under the current program, a full time School Resource Officer is stationed at Carroll Senior High School, with another one assigned at Carroll High School. A third officer splits time between the City’s two middle schools: Dawson and Carroll. The Task Force recommendation expands the program from three employees to 13 employees to cover an additional eight schools including Florence Elementary which is part of Keller Independent School District.
At the March 19th meeting, Mayor John Terrell told the audience that he sees the expanded program as a long-term investment. He stated later: “As with any long-term commitment, this program will evolve and we will modify it as we believe is necessary so that it will continually improve. What’s important is that this investment is constantly nurtured by its stakeholders so it becomes and remains a program of excellence which benefits Southlake’s families and the community.”
All of the money for the expanded program will come from the Crime Control Prevention District, the half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters to support the City’s safety and security initiatives. The board, which has fiduciary responsibility over the fund, approved the task force’s recommendation at their meeting on March 5th. The City will move forward this summer with making the necessary budget adjustments.
The Task Force was assembled shortly after the shootings in Newtown Connecticut where 26 people lost their lives after a shooter entered the Sandy Hook Elementary school and opened fire. The group researched and held meetings to determine the appropriate recommendation for an enhanced SRO presence for Southlake schools. It is composed of law enforcement experts, community leaders from both the City and Carroll ISD, and faith based leaders.
“We appreciate the cooperative partnership between the City of Southlake and Carroll ISD, especially on the topic of school safety,” said Read Ballew, School Board President and a member of the Mayor’s Task Force. “The group was quick but thorough in making a recommendation. Safety is a top priority for all of us, but the city’s expansion of the SRO program allows Carroll ISD to concentrate on our main focus of educating students.’
Superintendent David Faltys said the existing SRO program provides students, staff and parents with the opportunity to build strong relationships with local law enforcement officers. “The city’s efforts to help keep our schools safer also provide us with a great opportunity to utilize the expertise of these officers to positively impact the lives of students. We look forward to working with Chief Steve Mylett to find just the right individuals to fill these positions.”
City staff will now move forward with the necessary steps to seek out and hire qualified officers to staff the enhanced program. All SRO officers are required to go through 40 hours of specialized training that will focus on the specific safety and security needs of public schools and the children who attend them.