The Webster Parish School Board will soon be discussing adding an additional school resource officer to its ranks to handle the outlying schools in the parish.
Chief Deputy Bobby Igo Jr. approached the school board with the proposal that would mirror the plan in place by the City of Minden and the WPSB.
“We just felt like now is the time to address the school board, because they have been funding Minden officers and Springhill officers, we would like the opportunity for them to fund us to put officers in the schools,” he said. “This has come up before, we just never went this far with it, and we just felt this was the time.”
Igo said nothing happened to bring about the proposal other than it had been under discussion for quite a while and Sheriff Gary Sexton wanted to be proactive and offer better security services to schools that are not covered by municipal police.
“We get asked the question all the time, ‘Why doesn’t the sheriff’s office have school resource officers in the schools?’” he said. “We haven’t had any problems, but there’s always the possibility – and it’s come up before – where there’s not a patrol officer available. If you have the potential for a big fight and there’s nobody available, that’s a big concern of ours.”
“Any time we have a problem at one of the schools (outside municipal jurisdiction), we have to pull an officer off the roads to deal with the children,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said. “This would be a catch-all. In some schools, we can have an officer there, and in others, there’s nobody there. We have to call the sheriff’s office and they have to send somebody from God knows where to come deal with an irate parent.”
Igo added that having an SRO dedicated to the schools would allow for quicker response time as well.
Board Member Jerry Lott said when the Minden and Springhill’s contracts were brought before the board over the summer, Lakeside was supposed to be included, but it never panned out. Igo explained that schools such as Lakeside, Central and NWLE are outside of any municipal jurisdiction, and if anything happens, the sheriff’s office must answer that call.
In Doyline and Sarepta’s case, those schools are within the jurisdiction of the Doyline and Sarepta Police Departments. If the school needs assistance, then a deputy will be sent to assist the department, he said.
WPSO is proposing WPSB pay a flat rate of $25 per hour for a deputy to mainly cover Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School, North Webster Lower Elementary School and Central Elementary School during school hours. The school board would not be responsible for vehicle maintenance, fuel or employee benefits, he said. The deputies would not work after hours and schools would still receive the benefit of reserve deputies to work after school events such as football or basketball games.
The school board now pays a flat rate of $25 per hour in Minden and Springhill during school hours. The respective law enforcement agencies are still responsible for paying the SRO’s benefits, vehicle maintenance and fuel. When school is out for holidays or the summer break, those officers go back to their regular police duties.
The two Minden SROs are paid for through the District 6 half-cent sales tax, while the North Webster High School SRO is paid for through the Springhill Maintenance Tax.
The school board agreed to send it to the personnel and finance committees to discuss where the funding will come from and any related issues. A date for that meeting has not yet been set.
“It was a real positive meeting tonight, and I feel comfortable in the fact that we and the school board are all working together for the protection of our children,” Igo said.