Prosecutor’s office could fill need with staff member
A school resource officer may return to Del Norte County Unified School District, but only if the district has the money.
District Attorney Dale Trigg approached Superintendent Don Olson and Del Norte High School Principal Randy Fugate with the idea of employing a member of his staff as a part-time school resources officer at a reduced price.
The officer, a District Attorney’s Office investigator, would be stationed at Del Norte High School and would be able to respond to other schools if needed, Olson said. The district would reimburse the DA’s office $30,000, including $6,000 for training.
“Presently we do not have the money set aside for this expenditure,” Olson said, adding that the district is in negotiations with the teachers and classified staff unions. “We would like to consider it once we’re finished with negotiations.”
Four members of the Board of Trustees approved the position “in concept.” Board member Jennifer England — who has moved to Grants Pass — was absent.
Olson said the DA’s office will bring the idea before the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors today. If approved, the position will last for one year but could be extended. Olson said the district will know the ending balance of the 2013–14 budget by the end of September.
The school district has been without a school resources officer since the 2012–13 school year, when it was forced to make cuts due to a $2.5 million budget deficit. At the time, the district had employed a Crescent City Police officer full time at more than $68,000 annually, Olson said.
The district has also contracted with the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office in the past, Olson said.
Accepting Trigg’s offer would save the district about $30,000, Olson said. A district attorney investigator has different rights than a police officer, but can make arrests if necessary.
A member of the DA’s staff may also have a larger reach than either a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy, Olson said. He pointed out that a police officer couldn’t respond to schools outside city limits, and a sheriff’s deputy didn’t have jurisdiction within the city.
“A city police officer doesn’t necessarily go to Sunset (High School),” Olson said, referring to the district’s alternative education site on Elk Valley Cross Road. “And if we had an SRO from the sheriff’s office, he could only respond to county schools.”
A member of the DA’s staff could respond to both county and city schools because the office’s jurisdiction is countywide, Olson said.
The possible hiring of a new school resources officer comes about four months after a high school student posted a perceived threat against an unspecified school on theWhisper.com, a website that allows users to post anonymous messages.
The district responded by putting school sites on high alert, but didn’t notify parents until about 12 hours after a Crescent City Police officer notified school officials. The student stepped forward, saying that no threat was intended, but parents and community members felt the district could have better communicated the situation to them.
Olson said the possibility of bringing back a school resources officer was one of the topics discussed at a community meeting following the threat.
At the meeting in May, Olson told parents that the district will notify parents immediately if there is a threat, even if it is considered a minor threat. Parents will have the option of keeping their children out of school. District officials will cancel school if law enforcement think a threat is credible.
Former DNHS Principal Coleen Parker said a school resources officer doesn’t just lend a measure of safety to a school campus.
“What that person brings in the classroom ... it’s about building relationships in a positive way,” she said.
Board member Lori Cowan said she hopes to be able to hire someone “who’s going to relate to the kids.”