Officers Are Educators, Too

Public school officials have to juggle a number of important priorities for spending money. Most want to reserve as much as possible for programs that enhance education.

Resource officers — law enforcement personnel whose “beats” are school hallways — meet that test. Sometimes, that is not obvious to those who view resource officers as men and women whose primary contribution to education is keeping schools orderly and secure.

Three East Ohio school districts — Bellaire Local, Bridgeport Exempted Village and the Belmont-Harrison Career Center — have resource officers this year, it was announced this week. All are using deputies from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department.

One noteworthy aspect of the announcement is that all three school districts used resource officers in the past, but have not had them for several years. Blame financial challenges forcing officials to spend the money on other priorities for that.

Classroom teachers usually like to have resource officers in their schools, for the obvious reason that they help keep order in classrooms and hallways. That ensures students benefit from an environment conducive to learning.

But resource officers can be valuable — invaluable, in some ways — adjuncts to the education process in other ways. Bellaire school Superintendent Darren Jenkins made that point regarding truancy.

Students don’t learn what they should if they are not in school. Unfortunately, truancy is a major problem in both Ohio and West Virginia. Both states have initiatives meant to intervene with truant youngters before they and their parents are taken to court.

Resource officers can be the necessary step between action by school officials and arresting parents, then taking them to court. That can be a critically important and often decisive intervention.

Good for the three East Ohio school districts in recognizing that resource officers are a wise use of education funding. School officials elsewhere in our area who have not yet realized that should take another look at using resource officers effectively.