By Paige Nash
A Webster Parish School Board special meeting Monday evening was amended to include the unanimous approval of increasing the annual parish-wide Student Resource Officer (SRO) budget from $214,664.63 to approximately $637,000.
The increase in the budget will allow all 14 Webster Parish schools to have their own SRO dedicated to their school alone. The provision of the SRO officers will be a group effort by Springhill Police Department, City of Minden Police Department, and Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office. This budget also includes payment of the monthly lease of two marked vehicles with units and fuel provided by the Sheriff’s office.
Webster Parish Sheriff, Jason Parker said, “When it comes to the safety of our kids, I think we can all agree that you can’t put a price tag on that.”
This approval was made following a graphic and somber presentation given by Parker, Jeff Franklin who serves as the Webster Parish Supervisor of Transportation, Maintenance and Security, and the Webster Parish Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities Coordinator, Ursula Hullaby.
The presentation included a video portraying what exactly happens when an active shooter infiltrates a school and all the moving parts behind the scenes, such as witness interviews, family assistance and media support. It drove home the importance of having a highly trained SRO on the scene to initiate an immediate response.
Parker spoke from personal experience on the benefits and importance of having an SRO dedicated to each school.
“I have a unique perspective because when I retired from the Louisiana State Police and came to work for the Sheriff’s Office, I started out as a School Resource Officer. I split my time between Doyline High school, Lakeside and Central Elementary, which was tough at times. With almost 27 years of law enforcement experience at that time, that year and a half to two years with those kids was some of the most rewarding of my career,” he said.
The SROs are not only there to be the first line of defense for the students and staff, outside of providing security, they are there to build relationships, be a positive influence and role model for the students. That is why Parker believes this job is one of the most important in his line of work.
“You got to have the right one there. One that isn’t only going to relate to the kids and keep them safe, but there is a big uniqueness there. We’ve got to make sure that those are special folks that we are putting in our schools, not just filling a spot,” he said.
The Sheriff’s office and the school board began working toward this goal about a month ago with no clear plan on how they were going to do it, just the agreement that it was a crucial demand that needed to be met as soon as possible, with all Webster Parish schools already back in session. A plan was formed and ready to move forward pending the approval of the school board.
After multiple members of the audience expressed their agreement on having dedicated SROs at each school, they expressed concerns regarding whether the SRO would be trained for the types of situations portrayed in the presentation. Parker explained that all the SROs have been through a post academy. They are certified post officers that will continue their training with an extensive program which will include active shooter situations.
“We are waiting for the green light. They are ready to go,” said Parker.
The Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office worked to include two SRO officers in their budget. With a unanimous and quick vote, it was decided that the remaining 12 will be financed by the Webster Parish School Board with the funding source being each municipality’s individual maintenance funds.
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