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Extra school officers worth the investment

The news this week that Suffolk Public School’s received a grant of about $125,000 to support the school system’s resource office program might have been overlooked by many. It shouldn’t have been, though.

The safety of children attending public schools continues to be a challenge for teachers, parents and administrators. Currently, the SPS has an assigned resource officer at each high school, but it shares one resource officer among all of the city’s four middle schools. This grant money will ensure that each of the middle schools has a uniformed officer on site.

A school resource officer has a variety of roles during school hours from serving as a counselor to quasi-teacher, participating in drug awareness classes and more. But none of those aforementioned duties is as dire as the need for a uniformed officer to be onsite at each one of the Suffolk middle and high schools to provide a safe environment for learning to take place.

Sadly, Suffolk — like most other cities across the country — is struggling to fix the behavior problems that an SRO might prevent or keep from escalating to a much more severe situation. According to the Virginia Department of Education, there were 41 weapon offenses; 143 offenses against students; 43 offenses against staff; 51 alcohol, tobacco and other drug offenses; and 3,054 disorderly or disruptive behaviors reported from Suffolk Public Schools in the 2007-2008 calendar school year.

Those numbers may seem high, but compared to other school systems Suffolk size, it’s safe to assume they are somewhat lower than those of other school systems in the area. The statistics, though, show there is need for additional security in schools. It’s good to see that the governor agrees and is contributing taxpayer dollars to make sure that happens.