Urbana City School leaders are exploring the possibility of hiring a police officer to be dedicated to the protection of students and staff next year.
Superintendent Charles Thiel said the district decided to look into hiring the officer — known as a school resource officer — after some incidents at the school and after a school shooting just north of the city at West Liberty-Salem High School five months ago.
“We are having issues more and more within the schools it seems like all the time, where we have to call on the police department to provide assistance or to address the concerns that we have,” Thiel said. “Having somebody on site here frequently is a benefit. I think it benefits the community because of the relationship with the officers.”
Parent Melissa Flory, who has a senior and a fifth-grade student in the district, said having a school resource officer is something she supports.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I grew up in Columbus, and we had cops in the schools. And they helped deter all the violence and a lot of other things like maybe drugs.”
The resource officer will have the same powers of any other law enforcement. The officer will likely be hired through the Urbana Police Department, but work in the district during school hours.
Thiel said having an officer on site will also help in case of a tragedy like the one in West-Liberty Salem unfolds at Urbana schools. West-Liberty Salem High School was the scene of a school shooting in which a student was shot twice in the chest but survived.
“If someone’s on site and they can act and respond when there’s an act of violence, that’s always the best thing for everybody,” Thiel said.
Flory said she likes the idea of having an officer in the school just in case of a school shooting.
“We don’t have that security, and I think that if we had that security, they would be a little bit more safe,” she said.
This would not be the first time a resource officer would be patrolling the hallways at the school in Urbana. The school district was provided an officer by the city about 10 years ago, Thiel said, and it was a good experience.
“It gave kids a different perspective because most of the time when you’re dealing with a police officer, you’re dealing in a negative sense,” he said.
The officer was able to foster relationships with students, he said.
The district lost the resource officer because the city could not afford it. The resource officer was being paid for by a grant, but the department needed the manpower for patrol instead of inside the schools.
Thiel said the district still needs to workout logistics with the police department. It will also have to find the best way to pay for the officer.