Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Tough choices on school officers
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published September 6, 2007
Pasco's elementary school crime rate is holding steady. ¶ Ten years ago, the Pasco School District averaged only one criminal or violent incident per elementary school for the entire school year. Two years later, the district and Sheriff's Office partnered to begin putting deputies in elementary schools as resource officers.
The result? The most recent Department of Education statistics available (the 2005-06 school year) show little variation. That year, the district's 37 elementary schools reported 35 incidents.
Considering the data, it is reasonable then to question the wisdom of assigning officers to elementary schools. The scrutiny is leveled at Pasco Sheriff Bob White's budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Included in it initially was a provision for additional school resource officers, including a floater to fill in during absences and a deputy to work the elementary schools until the still-under-construction Crews Lake Middle School opens next year. Commissioners on Wednesday initially balked at adding new personnel to the sheriff's payroll, but agreed later to fund school crossing guards and set up a contingency fund for 10 new patrol deputies. The plan for the additional four school resource officers, known as SROs, however, died with little comment.
We supported the idea of adding officers to elementary schools in the 1990s. Interaction between children and deputies shouldn't be discouraged. School resource officers are an offshoot of community-oriented policing, a proactive law enforcement technique that introduces officers to children at an early age with the idea of stemming potential delinquency down the road.
Pasco's middle and high schools all have their own officers through the Sheriff's Office and city police forces. It's easy to see why. State statistics show 417 criminal or violent incidents in Pasco's middle schools in 2005-06. The number of incidents at the high schools was more than double to 953 for the year. That is an average of more than five incidents at county high schools each of the 180-day school year. Keeping officers at secondary schools is a logical deployment.
In 1999, however, White's predecessor began a federally funded program of assigning deputies to elementary schools. After the three-year grant expired, the county and school district shared the costs. Initially, three deputies divided their time among nine elementary schools supposedly targeted because of the levels of poverty, absenteeism, reported crimes, discipline referrals and other factors that indicate a preponderance of at-risk students.
But the focus switched to children with severe emotional handicaps who can be prone to anti-social behavior. The district has five officers dividing time among 20 schools, but the home base of each are the elementary schools that serve as centers for emotionally handicapped education. Twenty-three other elementary schools have no law enforcement presence.
As both the county and school district face budget cuts, the redeployment of elementary school officers is valid. Besides, it's not like the agencies went into the program wearing blinders. In applying for the original federal grant, Pasco officials noted potential changes in the political makeup of the School Board and County Commission. They also said an economic downturn could mean "the partnership agencies may not continue funding this program."
The district and sheriff have two options, one of which is to remove deputies from the elementary schools entirely. Certainly a caseload of one incident per school per year does not justify deputies working there exclusively.
A second idea would require changing assignments. Instead of asking an officer to cover four schools including one emotionally handicapped center, a deputy could cover two schools with student populations encompassing emotionally disabled children. It means some schools now receiving peripheral law enforcement service will go without, but it frees other deputies to assume SRO duties at new middle and high schools.
It certainly should serve to meet the needs of children the district says require the most attention. It might not be ideal, but then again, neither is having local spending decisions handcuffed by state-mandated budget cuts.