Keeping Brooke Schools Safe

At one time, teachers gathered for training sessions might learn how to spot children at risk of dropping out of school. Now, in addition to that, many are told what to do if someone with a gun invades their school.

School safety has become a key concern for educators. Here in West Virginia, state guidelines for construction of new school buildings include security features such as limiting the number of entrances. And with the new school year on the horizon, teachers, principals and other educators are hearing from experts on how to anticipate trouble and what to do if it happens.

“Prevention resource officers” – professional law enforcement personnel assigned to schools – are, by far, the most effective way to ensure students and educators are safe. But few school districts can afford to pay resource officers. Most, working with local law enforcement agencies, spread the cost around and rely on grants to defray much of it.

Earlier this year, Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson applied for grants to help fund resource officers at Brooke High School and Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools. But the state Division of Justice and Community Services notified him grants could not be provided for Brooke High and Follansbee Middle School, Jackson told county commissioners.

Resource officers have been present at the three schools during recent years, through a three-way funding arrangement. Jackson explained to commissioners his department provided about $132,000, the county school system covered about $25,000 and grants filled in the remaining $35,000 needed for the project.

Jackson added he will continue to pursue grants to cover all three schools. He is especially concerned about Brooke High. “We’re going to have a police officer at Brooke High School if I have to pay for it out of my own pocket,” the sheriff said.

Obviously, it cannot come to that. Still, Jackson and county commissioners are right to be enthusiastic about the resource officer program. It helps educators in many ways, not just in safeguarding their schools against armed intruders. It is an initiative worth continuing.

If grants cannot be obtained for the purpose, both Brooke County school officials and commissioners should consider whether they can make up at least some of the difference to retain resource officers at all three schools.