HARRISBURG – As part of the 2012-13 state budget package, the governor recently signed into law legislation updating the Commonwealth’s education code containing a measure that allows school districts in Pennsylvania to retain school resource officers (SROs) such as municipal police officers, as well as probation personnel, who are experienced in juvenile issues.
Previous law did not permit school districts to use taxpayer funds to contract with local police departments or county probation offices in order to have their personnel keep regular hours and interact with school personnel. School boards in several areas around Pennsylvania had seen surprisingly positive results from having SROs in their school, but had to end the practice when it came to their attention the education code did not permit them to hire SROs.
Case in point: Waynesboro, PA in Franklin County: With a large student population, and concerns rising about school safety in the district – there were as many as 31 arrests in Waynesboro schools during the 2008-09 school year – the school district in 2008 hired Waynesboro Police Officer Travis Carbaugh to be its SRO. The results were dramatic, with arrests in 2010 dropping by half and students and teachers alike praising Carbaugh’s ability to serve as both a mentor to students and a deterrent to disruptive behavior and criminal activity.
But, the grant money to fund the SRO position ran out in 2010, and the school district’s legal counsel determined a combination of the state school code and prior case law prohibited the district from continuing to employ a police or probation officer using taxpayer money.
This new law corrects this problem, allowing schools to now use their regular funds to have the professional presence of probation and law enforcement personnel on their premises.
Just by having a police officer or a probation officer in the school that kids recognize and have a relationship with deters them from hanging out with the wrong crowd and reminds them to concentrate on their school work.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Todd Rock (R-Franklin County).