Herald Staff Writer
The Operations Committee of the Norton Board of Education met with Norton Police Chief John Dalessandro to discuss School Resource Officers (SROs).
The committee wants to place a Norton SRO in each of its school buildings.
Barberton and Copley use SROs, where one officer is assigned to the same building for eight hours a day.
The difference between SRO and a side job, Dalessandro explained, is that an SRO is the same officer in the same building every day and a side job refers to a different officer every day. He said a pool of different city police departments fill in these side jobs for each other when officers are unavailable, and some Norton officers work in Copley schools as side jobs for $28 per hour, with a four-hour minimum.
Committee members agreed that SRO is the preferred alternative to side job officers because there is more of an opportunity for the officer to build relationships with students, but it was cost prohibitive. Dalessandro said that at least some police presence is important, if an SRO isn’t feasible.
Dalessandro added that an officer familiar with the students and the school is more able to help in situations such as active shooters and drugs.
Dalessandro said he advises administrators to practice what he called diverse drills, which are safety drills at different times of the day without warning, such as during a class exchange.
“Prepare your kids,” he said, “so that they know what to do any time there’s a problem, and that it’s OK to run out.”
He said that Chardon, Ohio administrators received a lot of negative phone calls and emails about the active shooter drill they conducted last year, and then two weeks later it happened for real and students escaped. Those who were killed, he said, were in close proximity to the shooter and couldn’t escape, but others were able to get out alive because of the training they received.
Committee members plan to approach Norton City Council in an effort to work out a solution to the need for police in the district’s school buildings.
School board member Louis Ule said, “If we can’t afford it, I understand, but at this point I’m willing to do anything.”