LAFAYETTE — Some Lafayette Parish School Board members want increased police presence at larger middle and high school campuses, but the current rate of criminal activity at the schools doesn’t warrant the added officers, the supervisor of the district’s school resource officers said.
“I don’t see the need to add additional personnel based on criminal activity,” Lafayette Police Sgt. Mark Francis said.
He supervises the 10 police officers assigned to 11 Lafayette city schools.
“If (the school district) wants to step up because of population, that would be their choice to do that,” Francis said. “We feel confident based on the officers and numbers we have in the system now.”
School resource officers are law enforcement officers who work on school campuses. Schools outside of the city limits are staffed by officers from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Carencro Police Department, Scott Police Department and Broussard Police Department.
During an Oct. 17 meeting, board member Hunter Beasley proposed adding school resource officers to larger campuses such as Lafayette High, which has one officer and more than 2,400 students.
Beasley said Tuesday he plans to recommend adding four officers to increase security at Lafayette High, Paul Breaux Middle, Carencro High and Carencro Middle if funding is available.
During last week’s meeting, board members heard from several parents about disruptive students at Carencro High and were told that 14 students had been sent home from Carencro Middle in the past month.
“Safety is paramount,” Beasley said. “I think we’ve got the money and we can afford it. It depends on whether the board wants it.”
In August and September, Francis said, 141 students were arrested compared to 116 last year. Francis said a bump in arrests at the start of school is typical, especially with changes within the district.
He added that criminal activity is expected to decline once the system opens its alternative school site at N.P. Moss Annex, which has been undergoing renovations.
“We had a couple of kids arrested multiple times,” he said. “These are kids that have behavioral issues that needed to be put at a different site so folks could work with them in a different situation.”
Francis said that in the first seven weeks of school, 15 arrests were reported at Lafayette High, which he did not consider high considering the student population.
“We’re the busiest in the middle schools,” Francis said.
He said the majority of arrests — 28 — in the first two months of school were at Lafayette Middle where about 540 students are enrolled.
The middle school previously shared a resource officer with Paul Breaux Middle, but this year, two resource officers were added to provide full-time coverage at both schools and at N.P. Moss Annex, which is now known as N.P. Moss Preparatory School. L.J. Alleman Middle and Edgar Martin Middle still share one officer.
The School Board paid $160,000 for the two new positions. The school system shares in the cost of eight Lafayette Police school resource officers, and the district’s total cost for the program this school year is $742,440.
Training, equipment, salary and benefits for one officer is estimated at $80,000, Francis said.
Even if School Board members approved the funding, an increase of school resource officers likely wouldn’t happen this year because of the necessary training time, he said.
“We need almost a year in advance notice so we can hire somebody and train somebody to bring them into the program,” Francis said.
During last week’s School Board meeting, board member Tehmi Chassion asked if officers could be diverted to other campuses for part of the school day. Last week, the school district’s assistant superintendent, Sandra Billeaudeau, told board members that the issue could be reviewed and discussed, but increasing school resource officers is dependent upon available law enforcement staff and district funding.