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Local

‘Progressive partnership’

$299K grant allows sheriff’s office to assign SRO to L-S school district

School resource officers provide more than just security for students.

By assigning a sheriff’s deputy to a new SRO position in the Lynnville-Sully Community School District, administrators hope the officer’s interactions with students “will break down barriers, redefine stereotypes and build positive relationships for many years to come.”

Shane Ehresman, superintendent of the Lynnville-Sully Community School District, said at a Monday, June 29, press conference, “The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and (school district) are excited for this progressive partnership and the positive impact it will have on both our community and its citizens.”

In March, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office — in partnership with Lynnville-Sully — applied for a Community Oriented Policing Services grant intending to create an SRO position for the district. About three months later, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded a $299,522 grant to the sheriff’s office.

However, he district noted the COPS grant does not cover the entire cost of an SRO. The school district and sheriff’s office will share expenses not covered in the grant, which only covers costs related to wages and benefits.

Ehresman commended Jasper County Lt. Aaron Groves as the primary grant writer and “heavy lifting.” The position, which will be assigned to an existing deputy, requires a four-year commitment from the sheriff’s office. The school district intends to launch the SRO program by fall.

“Both administrations are finalizing job duties and expectations of the SRO position,” Ehresman said. “This summer, a selection process for the SRO assignment will involve both administrations in order to find the best candidate to fill the position.”

The deputy who will serve as the SRO will participate in an approved certification class and job shadow a current SRO in another school district. The Lynnville-Sully SRO will wear a uniform and carry all equipment required by a sheriff’s office deputy, including a firearm.

By the time an SRO is assigned to the district, he or she will patrol the school and neighboring properties to detect and deter criminal activity and dangerous traffic conditions, provide security at events and provide in-service training for security-related matters.

The SRO will also work closely with teachers and staff to assure a safe learning environment. He or she will serve as an active law enforcement officer on campus, promote positive behavior, maintain a respectful environment in the schools and act as the first responder during emergencies.

SROs typically provide classroom talks and presentations on crime prevention, as well as instruction on law enforcement matters and emergency situations. This position will conduct security building assessments and perform a daily review of law enforcement activity that may involve students or their family members.

However, the SRO will not serve as a disciplinarian for classroom behavior, but may be called to assist for situations requiring law enforcement to be contacted. In the event of an emergency at Sully Christian School or if law enforcement support is needed at that building, the Lynnville-Sully SRO will respond.

The SRO would work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on normal school days. When school is not in session, the SRO will be placed on a normal patrol shift but will otherwise be present at extracurricular activities if requested by the Lynnville-Sully administration.

Leaders of Lynnville-Sully and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office will enter into a 28E Agreement to kickstart this position. School administrators identified a weakness in its emergency management plan because of its geographic isolation and lack of law enforcement coverage in the district.

According to the press release, current response time for Lynnville-Sully ranges from eight to 12 minutes, depending on location of law enforcement at the time. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says 83 percent of targeted school violence lasts five minutes or less.

Smaller school districts like Lynnville-Sully may not always have the funds available to afford an SRO. To Ehresman’s knowledge, there is at least one school of similar size — Cardinal Community School District, of Eldon — that implemented an SRO. It, too, had a geographical isolation from law enforcement.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said the board of supervisors was notified early on that the agency was seeking the COPS grant for Lynnville-Sully. The board, he added, has been supportive of the grant and the SRO position itself.

To learn more about the upcoming Lynnville-Sully SRO, families are encouraged to attend a meeting with district administrators and sheriff’s office officials beginning 5:30 p.m. July 13 at the high school gym.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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