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[February 14, 2013]
St. Charles County panel calls for more police in high schools, middle schools
Feb 14, 2013 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- ST. CHARLES COUNTY -- More police staffing in high schools and middle schools is among initial recommendations of a countywide task force on school safety.
The panel, named by County Executive Steve Ehlmann after the Connecticut school massacre, urged the Legislature to "identify funds" to help police expand the use of school resource officers. Congress is considering federal aid.
Task force chairman Bernard DuBray said the panel didn't recommend police in elementary schools because of the high price tag.
"It didn't seem to be practical for the money and the manpower," said DuBray, the superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt School District.
The report said there are 22 school resource officers now across the county funded by school districts and law enforcement agencies.
Almost all high schools have one officer, the report says, while some officers serve more than one middle school.
The task force also suggested that school districts consider new security technology, such as linking a principal's desk via radio to dispatch centers and other parts of the county's emergency communications system.
"People would still have to find funding," DuBray said.
The panel asked the county to arrange for Motorola Solutions, the firm working on a current upgrade of the county's communications system, to explain such options to school and police officials.
Mental health also is a focus. The task force urged all schools to develop a process for identifying troubled students, citing as models existing procedures in the Fort Zumwalt district and at St. Charles Community College.
The panel also calls for schools to be made aware of existing resources such as a 24-hour behavioral crisis line.
The group also recommended that more money be spent on mental health services in schools. Current funding, the report said, "is greatly lacking" and only serves the 3 to 5 percent of students considered to be severely at risk.
However, the report doesn't suggest how to come up with the money.
The task force also calls on schools to review existing entrances and exits and put a focus on security in the construction and renovation of new facilities.
The committee's list didn't include arming teachers to help defend the schools. "It was discussed, but in a very brief fashion," DuBray said.
He said resource officers indicated that if teachers carried guns, it could be difficult for police responding to an incident to quickly "sort out the bad guys." The panel included educators from public and private schools, police officials, mental health professionals, a circuit judge and two county councilmen.
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