Sheriff suggests security upgrades for Pointe Coupee schools

The Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office submitted on Wednesday night a school crisis response plan to the School Board outlining new security recommendations to better protect the school district’s five campuses.

Sheriff Bud Torres also handed the board a proposal to spend about $120,000 a year to hire three certified school resource officers to serve the school system.

The board took no action on the proposals during its regular meeting, deciding instead to determine how to proceed after cost assessments of the upgraded security measures are presented to the board in April.

The school system’s exploration of improved safety and security for students and faculty is similar to efforts of school districts in surrounding parishes, where officials have decided to expand police presence on campuses following the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Everyone has this on their radar,” Torres told School Board members. “I’m not here to tell you what you should do; I’m here to support the board on whatever decision you make. I know we don’t have the funds to install elaborate measures, but we want to look at the obvious things we could achieve within budget restraints.”

Torres’ plan calls for parking marked police vehicles in high-visibility areas — such as in front of school campuses — as deterrents to outside threats. Other elements include fencing off campuses, creating main entrances where all school visitors must pass, installing electronic locks and gates along with surveillance cameras at each school, and equipping faculty and staff members with two-way radios.

Torres suggested the board hire three more certified school resource officers, at approximately $40,000 each per year, by setting up a mutual agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and the school district.

“I have some prospects,” Torres told the board.

In response to the Sandy Hook shooting, Torres added, several of his deputies have been on rotating patrol shifts at three of Pointe Coupee’s school campuses to provide extra security while the school district devises and approves a final plan.

The school system already has two certified resource officers assigned to Livonia High School and Rosenwald Elementary School, Superintendent Linda D’Amico said.

Torres advised the School Board that annual training for school resource officers begins in June, so members must soon decide whether they want to hire the additional officers. Trained school resource officers would be prepared to begin work in the fall, he said.