Gadsden ISD faces challenges getting student resource officers
The Gadsden Independent School District has faced challenges attempting to find armed security for their campuses. To help ease parents' concerns, the Gadsden Independent School District has implemented a Parents on Patrol program where parents like Draven Crotte can volunteer to guard the schools their kids go to.
“I went to a board meeting and the superintendent mentioned something about POPs and I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about. He said it was parents on patrol they could volunteer at the school where their kids go. So immediately the next day I filled for the paperwork," Crotte said.
After passing a background check as well as a training course, Draven started volunteering. He and other POP’s parents around the district make sure doors and windows are locked and are an extra set of eyes on the lookout for any safety concerns.
“I am hoping that this would discourage anyone who would try to do some kind of harm. Hopefully they see me and my vest and they see somebody walking around, I hope that discourages them from trying to do anything here or any other school," Crotte said.
Gadsden ISD Superintendent Travis Dempsey has been working with parents to try to keep schools safe. With Gadsden taking up an area of over 1400 square miles, they face uncommon challenges.
“We have schools out at Yucca Heights out in Chaparral that could take 30 to 40 minutes of response time if there was an emergency and so that really makes us unique in some of our needs. With that, I think we need to increase our ability to respond if there is a serious situation," Dempsy said.
To help address these concerns, Dempsey requested armed School Resource Officers from the Doña Ana County Sheriff. This plan has been met with pushback from some members of the county commission as well as the Sheriff but Dempsy says he is all for the idea.
“Our commitment to it is pretty significant. When I initially sat down with them the price tag was about $3 million to do all SRO’s. Our budget will be approved in the next couple weeks and you will see $3 million set aside to accomplish this," Dempsy said.
County Commissioner Shannon Reynolds is against police in schools for a variety of reasons. He says that the increased cost of insurance along the way officers are trained leads to an undesirable outcome.
“When you think about training police officers, there is a de-escalation process that is taught to them that allows them and teaches them how to engage with serious criminals. They are basically prepared to take anyone down on a moment's notice. That's really not necessary for juveniles," Reynolds said.
Reynolds says that retraining officers for a school environment takes about six to eight months and even then safety is not guaranteed.
“There are several examples with Uvalde being one of them where 19 police officers with weapons did not make a difference in fact they were there and did not act," Reynolds said.
However, not every commissioner agrees with Reynolds. The County Commission is looking to give the Sheriff's office money for 8 SRO’s that were not requested by the Sheriff. Ultimately, Sherriff Kim Stewart has final say on where her deputies will go. While Sherriff Stewart does not have an issue with extra security or volunteering parents to be at schools, she says that law enforcement often gets misused on campuses.
“Deputies often get roped into disciplinary issues at the school. I’m sorry, everywhere I have ever worked there is always one school and one principal who has decided to use their SRO as a hammer. We are not hammers," Stewart said.
During a recent commissioner meeting that discussed the new budget, a vote to remove the SRO’s for the county budget was successful meaning that it appears that Gadsden ISD has more work ahead to get armed security.