School board gives green light to police in schools

By Stephen Betts | Apr 05, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts From left, Oceanside High School Assistant Principal Jesse Bartke, Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher, Knox County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll and Rockland Deputy Police Chief Christopher Young met March 1 with the Regional School Unit 13 Board about the possibility of having police officers in the schools. The Board voted April 5 to move ahead with the proposal.

Rockland — The Rockland-area school board took the first step Thursday night, April 5, to having a police officer into Oceanside High School and the South School.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board voted 6-2 to authorize the superintendent to "engage in a partnership" with the Rockland Police Department for a school resource officer to serve the two schools in the city.

Superintendent John McDonald said with that vote he would also continue discussions with the Knox County Sheriff's Office with the goal of getting officers into the other schools in the district.

McDonald said the vote would be the first step in the process. He said he will now go to the Rockland City Council to ask it to apply for a federal grant to help pay for the position for the first three years.

The district would then also have to adopt a policy on the school resource officer position, a job description and an agreement with the city.

He said that he could not guarantee that an officer would be in the schools for the start of the next school year.

Board member Ron Gamage of Thomaston said an incident his daughter experienced recently had led him to support having officers in the schools. His daughter teaches at a large school in South Carolina that has five resource officers.

There was a threat and she huddled in a closet in a locked classroom for an hour with her students. During the entire time, no one could speak and everyone later mentioned they were worried someone's phone would ring and alert the possible shooter.

Gamage said his daughter was comforted, however, by knowing there were police officers in the school.

Board member Tom Peaco said he could not imagine looking a parent in the eye if the board did not support this action and something happened.

He also said that the officer would be more than an armed officer, but would help build relationships between the schools and communities and police officers.

Board Chair Loren Andrews of Cushing said he also thought it would be important to have an officer who could help students with, for example, domestic violence at home.

Board members Carol Bachofner of Rockland and Jason McLean of South Thomaston voted against having police in the schools.

Bachofner said she was afraid of friendly fire incidents. She also said she did not think that the gun culture could be dealt with by adding another gun in the school.

McLean said last month that he had a real problem with putting police in the schools. He expressed concern for the civil liberties of students.

He said the fear of school shootings is similar to the fear of nuclear war in the 1950s, when schools had drills in which students would hide under their desks.

In addition to the two Rockland schools, next year there will be the Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, The Thomaston Grammar School, the Ash Point Community School in Owls Head and the Cushing Community School.

Thomaston has a police department and the other towns are served by the Sheriff's Office.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Apr 07, 2018 18:22

Looks like someone is trying to take over my name.  I did not make the above comment.  As far as an armed resource Officer I'm ALL for the idea.  One injured let alone one killed is way to much!!!

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Apr 06, 2018 16:33

Hardly a majority of "the will of the people"...How is a resource officer with a service revolver going to defend children against someone with an assault rifle?

Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Apr 06, 2018 09:06

I don't recall ever having a public vote about an armed resource person in the schools of RSU 13. Can't say that it's the will of the people if the people have not been officially asked to vote on this. I also can't fault those who voted in the minority, at least they are willing to serve on the school board.

Posted by: Edwin E Ecker | Apr 06, 2018 03:18

A small price to pay for the security of our children !

As for the two who voted against the proposal they should think about another hobby other than obstructing the will of the people.

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