School safety dominated the Fremont County Board of Supervisors meeting on March 27, less than a week after two students were arrested for making threats against Sidney High School.
Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope told the board he was contacted by the Mills County Attorney’s office about placing a school resource officer (SRO) in Sidney schools.
Tyler Loontjer, Assistant Mills County Attorney, has initiated a project to get SRO’s into Iowa community schools and has offered his expertise to the sheriff’s office.
He said the program is designed to foster a positive relationship between students and law enforcement. “I really think they are a phenomenal resource… the kids get that positive relationship with them to where they trust law enforcement”, said Loontjer.
The program places emphasis on the value of law enforcement in our lives by offering school programs such as bicycle safety, stranger danger and DARE for the younger kids, and a protective presence in high schools.
The SRO would be a certified deputy with the Sheriff’s office and schools would be responsible to pay the SRO’s salary for nine months, then during the summer they go back on Sheriff’s office payroll.
The sheriff’s office and county attorney’s office are discussing a pilot program where the officer will divide a 40 hour work week between Fremont Mills and Sidney schools.
Both school districts have the funding to compensate for a part time officer.
The deputy can also be brought in for sporting events or other extracurricular activities, if needed, at an overtime rate.
The schools would also cover additional training expenses to have the deputy attend a national SRO training program.
Tim Hood, Superintendent of Sidney schools, said he is in favor of the proposed plan, but would also like to explore the possibility of having a full time officer exclusive to Sidney schools.
“It would be a win-win, not only for the school district, but the Sheriff’s office as well.” said Hood.
Supervisor Earl Hendrickson said he feels most parents would be happy to have a SRO in the schools.
“With everything that has gone on in the country, that they would feel a lot better, that their kids would be a lot safer with a resource officer in the school”, said Hendrickson.
Not all supervisors were in favor of the SRO. Supervisor Terry Graham said, “Some people may see it as the administration or staff is deferring their responsibility to administer discipline.”  
The Sheriff says SRO’s try to stay out of minor disciplinary infractions.
While the officer may have a discussion with school officials about minor issues, the school would not give up their responsibility for discipline.    Loontjer said the majority of the discipline will still be handled by the school. The Sheriff concurred.
“We will not be there for everyday discipline”, said Aistrope.
Graham also said the decision should be data driven and not fear driven.
“I just don’t see our school district having the data to show we need a school resource officer at this point”, said Graham, and suggested the school take progressive steps to make the buildings more secure.
Supervisor Randy Hickey disagreed. “I don’t want to wait until the data says we have to have it “ said Hickey. “We’ve got to protect our kids”.
Superintendent Hood said the school is willing to take the steps necessary to prevent a tragedy. “We’re being proactive”, said Hood.
The program is projected for the 2018/19 school year. Sheriff Aistrope says if the program gets approval, the Hamburg district could also be considered for the program.
The proposal will be back on the agenda and voted on at the April 10th Supervisors meeting.