Bulloch County commissioners have approved a partnership between the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and the Bulloch County Board of Education to place two school resource officers in five area schools.
Statesboro High School already has a school resource officer, or SRO, funded by the BOE and city of Statesboro, as the school is within the city limits.
The officers, which will be certified sheriff’s deputies, will work in four schools that share two campuses, as well as a fifth middle school, according to the agreement.
One deputy will be assigned to Southeast Bulloch Middle and High schools, while the second will be assigned to Langston Chapel Elementary and Middle schools, with some time spent at William James Middle School.
The sheriff’s department established the SRO program, and the Board of Education agreed to it. The Sheriff’s Office will maintain the program with Sgt. Jimmy Billings as supervisor, said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins, who spoke to commissioners Tuesday.
Sheriff Lynn Anderson accompanied Akins to the commissioners’ meeting but handed the presentation over to Akins.
“This has been a long, ongoing process for several years,” Akins said, citing several reasons why law enforcement officers are needed in the schools. Growth and an increased demand for deputies to respond to school issues were among the factors behind the program’s creation.
The SROs will provide classroom instruction on law enforcement matters, conduct meetings with DARE (the drug-resistance education program) and GREAT (the gang-resistance education program) and will “allow students to build positive relationships with law enforcement officers in a non-confrontational setting,” according to the agreement between the two agencies.
The officers also will protect people and property on school grounds, attend extracurricular activities at school and out of town and investigate crimes that occur on the campuses.
The program is part of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and Billings, as part of the office’s community relations division, will coordinate and supervise the program, according to the agreement.
Each SRO will coordinate activities with the schools’ principals, and in case of an incident needing law enforcement action, they will handle the situation and then inform the principal, the agreement states. The SROs will be paid by the BOE when working at the schools, and when school is not in session, they will work as sheriff’s deputies and be paid by the Sheriff’s Office.
The BOE will provide the SROs with work space, a copy of school policies and procedures, and school operations training. The Sheriff’s Office will supply them with uniforms, patrol cars and law enforcement and SRO training.
Per the agreement, each SRO will be able to take two hours weekly from their assigned schools in order to conduct DARE activities at other elementary schools.
The agreement comes into effect July 1.
“We have been working with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office over the past couple of months to develop an agreement for SRO at a few of our schools,” said Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson in a memo to school officials. “The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office has presented us with a very workable solution that has been long needed.”
Money budgeted for Gene McDaniel, retired former chief deputy and court services deputy, with $20,000 added from the Sheriff’s Office budget, will provide for another court services deputy, as well as the two SROs, the agreement said. The BOE will fund less than $42,000 in the first year of the program’s operation.
Before commissioners voted, commission Chairman Garrett Nevil said, “It sounds like a good plan to me.”
Commissioner Roy Thompson praised the concept as serving a “good example” to students before he made a motion to approve the agreement.
The vote was unanimous.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.