(June 28, 2013) Worcester County has applied for a grant for school safety for the upcoming school year.
The $367,521 grant would cover the salaries of 11 part-time school security deputies, portable radios and protective vests. The county would have a cash match of $144,309 for fringe benefits.
The application for the Byme Memorial Justice Assistance Grant was submitted June 2013 to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
The deputies will provide security within all 13 public schools in the county. The increased security is the direct result of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year.
Deputies have been providing limited security at the county schools, but it cannot be maintained over the long term and has taken deputies away from other duties. Municipal police departments whose officers have been providing some security at the schools also feel the drain.
Because the schools are a direct function of the county government, the assumption is that it is the county’s duty to provide the deputies for protection of students, staff and visitors at the schools.
Sandy Hook had a secured perimeter and people had to be identified before they would be electronically allowed to enter. Nonetheless, such security did not deter and could not stop the gunman from breaking in. An armed law enforcement officer inside the school could have altered the tragic outcome, most people believe.
“A good guy with the proper policing equipment on the other side of that barrier is the only true security measure that has been successful in defending students and staff in American schools,” the county’s grant application states.
An additional benefit to having deputies in schools is one of perception. Their presence “will further enhance the manner in which law enforcement is viewed by the public,” the grant application states. “The contacts in the schools with students and staff will be a very positive experience as the deputy is viewed in the favorable light of ‘protector’ as opposed to other types of public contacts that law enforcement may have with individuals. This should provide the opportunity for networking and lowering the objections that some folks develop over time whereby they avoid law enforcement officers and do not provide information when it would be helpful and appropriate. Increasing opportunities for positive communication and contacts will only allow for a better base to be established for future endeavors and opportunities.”
In addition to providing security at the schools, the deputies will be required to attend PTA meetings at their respective schools to hear feedback or questions about safety and security and to address those issues.
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office will develop surveys for students, teachers and other staff members of the Board of Education to gauge the success of the school security project. The surveys, to be used annually, will also measure any changes in the levels of fear and safety felt by those in the schools.
In addition to the grant for 11 part-time deputies, Worcester County applied for a federal grant for two full-time school security deputies. Like the grant for part-timers, the grant for the full-time deputies is for one year. The expectation is that the county would fund the security measures in future years.