Armstrong municipalities may seek state grant to hire officers
Several municipalities in Armstrong County may be applying for state Department of Education grants to hire school resource officers.
The officers, who would be employed by local police departments, could patrol the school and work directly with school administrators, according to Jon Fair, the district's director of student transportation, child accounting and safe schools.
Fair said he met with several police officials to discuss the grant. Before applying for the grant, the school board would have to allow the police departments to hire a school resource officer, he said.
Although Fair declined to identify which municipalities requested information on the grant, the district's current buildings are located in East Franklin, Elderton, Dayton, Kittanning, Ford City and Rural Valley. The new Armstrong Junior-Senior High School will be located in Manor Township.
The grant would provide up to $60,000 for the first year of the officer's employment, and, if funding is available for a second year, the municipality would have to provide half of the officer's salary, Fair said.
According to the state Department of Education's website, a school resource officer is a local, county or state law enforcement officer stationed in a school, with special training to interact with children and adolescents in a school setting to “carry out their official duties on the premises of the school entity or nonpublic school.”
The officers work with school principals and instructors to serve as a guest lecturer, including educating students on the roles of police in society, laws and the justice system, gang and drug resistance education and training, crime in the community and conflict resolution.
They aim to enhance programs to address school violence by enhancing school security, according to the website.
“There would only be one school resource officer per municipality,” Fair said. “This officer could also go to work with non-public schools within the municipalities.”
Fair said the officer would be no cost to the school district, but the board must give the municipalities permission to allow the officer within their buildings.
Solicitor Lee Price said school resource officers are considered municipal employees, who would be able to work within the district's building.
The district would be able to work with municipal police departments to suggest scheduling and discuss the building's needs, Fair added.
School board President Joseph Close said although the officer would solely benefit the district, the costs would fall completely on the municipality.
“I just hope they understand, going into this, at some point they could be absorbing some cost,” Close said. “That officer will solely be used for school buildings and come at no cost to us.”
Fair said the district could apply for a grant to hire its own police officer, which would go to all of the district's buildings. So far, the board has not discussed hiring its own officer, Fair said.
Police departments must apply for the grant by Nov. 22, and grants will be awarded in December, according to the Department of Education website.
The board plans to vote on allowing municipalities to apply for grants to bring school resource officers into their buildings during the Tuesday business meeting in West Hills Intermediate School, Room 2050, in East Franklin at 7:30 p.m.
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.