Options for school safety analyzed

The Lafayette Parish School Board pulled a request for more school resource officers to staff larger campuses to allow time for district staff to develop a “school safety package” to address enforcement issues.

Ten Lafayette police officers work as school resource officers at 11 school sites within the city limits. Concern that campuses with a large number of students have only one school resource officer to handle incidents prompted a board recommendation that more resource officers be hired.

A “civilian” staff person who could act as a “school safety officer” and enforce school rules would help improve situations on some campuses, Lafayette police Sgt. Mark Francis told board members Wednesday.

Francis supervises the school resource officer program at Lafayette city schools.

The school safety officer could “support what the principal needs,” Francis said. “That would be something we’d love to have with us going forward. It’s always good to have additional eyes and ears,” he said.

School safety officer and other recommendations will be considered by staff and recommendations could be made to the board either later this month or in December, said Sandra Billeaudeau, district assistant superintendent. She said staff has been meeting with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Juvenile Court judges in devising a plan to help struggling students.

Billeaudeau said the “safety package” could include additional personnel, programs or processes for schools to follow to improve safety. The needs are under review, she said.

In the first three months of school, a total of 234 arrests were made on the 11 school sites staffed by Lafayette police school resource officers, according to data Francis presented to the board.

The number isn’t unusual compared with prior years and doesn’t alarm officers, Francis said.

“We feel confident at this point things are starting to level off,” he said.

A spike in arrests typically occurs in September and October, Francis said.

“I’ve compared it to the previous years,” Francis said. “The only difference I’ve seen between last year and the current school year is that we had a slight increase at the new site Moss Prep and also at Paul Breaux.”

According to campus arrest data for the first three months of school, 40 students were arrested at Paul Breaux Middle and 45 students were arrested at N.P. Moss Preparatory School, the district’s new site for students disciplined for behavioral issues.

Francis said additional police presence will be at Paul Breaux, where “normally this is one of our quieter middle schools.”

The school resource officer who works at the adjacent Career Center will help and additional police presence will be at N.P. Moss Prep, Francis said.

Teacher Nancy Romero asked the board to act quickly on making campuses safer work environments.

Romero thanked Billeaudeau and Superintendent Pat Cooper for meeting with N.P. Moss Prep faculty last week to listen to their concerns. She asked that they extend the same support to other campuses.

Teachers across the district are being “threatened” by students’ actions and foul language, Romero said.

“These problems will continue to escalate around the parish unless action is taken. ... We want to teach, but we want to be safe,” Romero said.

Board members asked how many students were on the N.P. Moss campus during the first three months.

In the first three months of school, about 200 students were on the N.P. Moss Prep campus, Billeaudeau told board members. She reminded board members that the students are on the campus because of behavioral issues.

The site, which has capacity for about 600 students, became fully operational last week due to renovations that were only recently completed.

At the end of the meeting, Cooper addressed Romero’s concerns and said the system is working to address them. Specific to N.P. Moss Prep, the school is in a transitional phase, he said.

Teachers’ concerns are being heard, the superintendent said.

“We know that discipline is an issue. We’re going to address that. We’re not going to sit back and let that get out of control,” Cooper said.