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Funding for schools’ SROs should continue

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As a newspaper, we’ve been firm with assertions regarding spending taxpayer dollars during the economic downturn.
We’ve called for governments of all sizes and their related and varied agencies to reduce spending, don’t raise taxes and don’t spend money if it’s not imperative to do so.
But a recent decision to shell out almost a quarter of a million dollars in school revenue won’t get a lashing from us.
Last week, during its Tuesday night meeting, the Brunswick County Board of Education agreed to take just shy of $250,000 out of its fund balance to pay for School Resource Officers at all of the county’s elementary schools.
The SROs were put in elementary schools following the December massacre of elementary students by a lone gunman in Newtown, Conn. Area middle and high schools here already have SROs on staff.
The $250,000 will cover related expenses for the elementary school officers for the remainder of the school year.
While we’re just getting into 2013, county and school officials are already talking about budgets for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1.
Part of that conversation will include how they can work together to continue to pay those new salaries plus related benefits, expenses and equipment.
We think it’s an investment worth making—not just now but in the long-term.
Adding officers to the elementary schools just makes sense, just as it does to have them at middle and high schools.
While safety and officer visibility is paramount, it’s much more than that.
Often, young people have limited encounters with law enforcement. In some cases the only time they meet an officer is during a traumatic or frightening event.
Having officers on-site creates situations where young people can learn that law enforcement officials don’t have to be intimidating figures. It gives them a chance to have an additional responsible adult to rely on and creates opportunities for children to have access to structure and authority.
Having officers in place gives school officials a chance to focus more on additional life-changing projects like D.A.R.E. and other anti-drug and gang-related programs. It also provides opportunities to develop more plans to address societal issues common in schools, like bullying.
And for now, it gives parents some relief knowing a trained law enforcement officer will be available during school hours and some extra-curricular activities.
This, we say, is a wise investment; and we hope it’s one that will stay on the books for a long time to come.