By Marsha Sills
August 17, 2012
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school system is adding two new school resource officers for the upcoming school year that begins Friday.
The school resource officers are law enforcement officers who provide “safety and support” to the campus, said Lafayette police Sgt. Mark Francis, who supervises school resource officers assigned to city schools.
Last school year, eight Lafayette police officers staffed 10 middle and high schools in the city. Broussard, Carencro and Scott police and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office also have school resource officers at middle and high schools located in their respective jurisdictions.
Starting Friday, a full-time officer will be placed at both Paul Breaux Middle and Lafayette Middle. Last school year, both schools shared a school resource officer.
The other new position will go to the new N.P. Moss Preparatory School, where all the district’s alternative programs have been consolidated for the first time this year at the former N.P. Moss Annex campus, Francis said.
The staffing change leaves two schools that will still share an officer — L.J. Alleman and Edgar Martin Middle, he said.
The Lafayette Police Department and school system have shared the salary and training costs for the eight school resource officers, but the district is funding all of the $160,000 for the two new positions, Francis said. The total cost to the school district for the school resource program in the upcoming school year will be $742,440, according to the district budget.
The need for additional officers came out of task force sessions held this spring as part of Superintendent Pat Cooper’s transition. Cooper, who started in January, rolled the task force recommendations into a district turnaround plan designed to help move Lafayette Parish from its state accountability letter grade label of a C to an A.
Schools benefit from the officers being on the campus because they’re able to quickly respond to crisis situations and they helps prevent some problems, Cooper said.
“These police officers get wind of things before they happen or they can intervene before anything can happen,” Cooper said.
School resource officer staffing for schools outside of the city will remain the same in the upcoming school year, Cooper said.
The superintendent routinely meets with law enforcement agencies that staff the schools to determine the need for changes. Adjustments will be made as needed, Cooper said.
Only one school resource officer is assigned to Acadiana High School, but the Scott Police Department installed a video security and alert communications system. The web-based system enables the police department to monitor the school from their offices or from patrol cars and send alerts to school employees’ computers during crisis situations on campus.
“The system’s working. We did a test text message at the school today,” said Scott Police Chief Chad Leger.
The school resource officers get involved as needed and make arrests when necessary. Last school year, 643 arrests were reported on campuses by local law enforcement agencies.
Within Lafayette city schools, the majority of arrests were related to fighting and officers have noticed an increase in incidents on middle school campuses due to negative peer pressure, Francis said.
One intervention model that’s helped at Lafayette Middle is a “Peacekeepers” program that recognizes students who help create a peaceful environment on the campus, he said.
“We’re going to try to grow that at other middle schools,” Francis said. “In the last year, focusing on mentoring because a lot of these young folks need someone to talk to and need some positive advice and need some reinforcement. We deal with that on a daily basis.”