In wake of tragedy, resource officers becoming integral part of school districts
A year ago, some school resource officers in Pennsylvania feared losing their jobs to state funding cuts.
The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December reversed that trend. Districts nationwide are looking at ways to boost security — and that includes adding school resource officers.
“It just took a completely different turn. Everybody wants a class,” said Joseph Kozarian, Brentwood Borough School District director of security and facilities and the Region 3 director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, or NASRO. He oversees operations in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
In Pennsylvania and nationwide, demand for NASRO's officer training increased 300 percent since the Sandy Hook shooting, Kozarian said. The association anticipates schools across the country will add 1,000 officers to the 9,000 on duty by the end of this year.
Typically, training happens in summer, but the Connecticut shooting prompted officials to schedule classes in January and February. Kozarian led a 40-hour “basic training” for 16 officers at Bethel Park High School. Elsewhere, advanced and “active shooter” classes are scheduled.
“This is just the first of many in the next six months,” said Kozarian.
The classes teach officers how to deal with situations inside a school, organizers said.
“This is a completely different approach to how to do our jobs. We're always police, but here we're working with kids all of the time,” said Bethel Park school police officer Jim Modrak, a school resource officer since 2002.
The role of a school resource officer is threefold: they serve as police, provide law-related education and counsel students.
During training, these certified police officers learn how to be an effective presenter; how to deal with adolescence and emotions, substance abuse and dysfunctional families; laws that affect schools; and crisis prevention and crisis response, Kozarian said.
“You're closing the barrier between law enforcement and children. It's really giving them insight as to how the education system works,” Kozarian said.
Collier officers Bill Oslick and Steve Oberle participated in a class before becoming full-time resource officers for Chartiers Valley schools.
“It gives us a lot more perspective,” Oberle said.
Officials intended to add resource officers to three Chartiers Valley schools for several years, and the shooting expedited it, Oberle said.
Networking and learning how to interact with students was vital, said Oslick, who shadowed a resource officer in North Allegheny School District.
In Brentwood, which instituted school resource officers years ago, their presence has helped to reduce student vandalism, smoking and drug use, Kozarian said.
Though the trend began in the 1970s, Pennsylvania has lagged behind many states in implementing school police, he said.
“I haven't seen anything that I think is a better defense out there,” Kozarian said.
He's hopeful that tight budgets won't affect the program or keep schools from adding police.
“We have to protect the most important thing out there, and that's our children,” Kozarian said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Baldwin Community Day offers new set of activities
- Exhibit at Whitehall library captures refugee stories
- Brentwood officials try new way to get code violation message across
- Plan to seek bids for EMS challenged by Brentwood councilman
- Brentwood officials, park nonprofit try to resolve issues
- Code violations increase during summer, Brentwood officials find
- Drivers get signals crossed by Routes 51, 88 intersection work