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Resource officer approved for St. James high schools

Micheal Kiral / L’Observateur / July 15, 1998

LUTCHER – Violence in schools.

It is a national tragedy and one that seems to be getting worse every day.

Guns in schools, drugs, students assaulting teachers and classmates. Theschool yard is becoming a battleground rather than the center of learning they have been in the past.

With the growth in the number of cases of violence on school grounds has come an increase in interest in school districts across the country working more closely with their local law enforcement agencies. Whereasthe presence of a police officer on school property was an indication that there was a problem, that presence is now a way to prevent trouble from starting.

The St. James Parish Public School System is the most recent schooldistrict to have that presence, approving an interagency agreement with the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office at its school board meeting Thursdaynight.

In the agreement, the Sheriff’s Office will provide a resource officer who will rotate between the two high schools. St. James Parish Sheriff WillyMartin, who made a presentation to the board, said there are plans to have an officer at each school as soon as a second officer has finished the training for the job.

Martin said his department as well as the school system administration is looking at getting a grant to pay for the program.

“We want to be a partner with you and work with you in those areas,” Martin said.

In addition to the resource officer, Martin said his department will continue to work with the schools in such programs as 4-H safety talks, the DARE program, escorts and special event security.

Martin also asked permission to go into the schools four times a year without permission for drug interdictions. There have been times in thepast when students knew about the searches days in advance and by doing it this way, Martin said, the element of surprise will be on the side of the Sheriff’s Office.

Martin said the department will be cognizant of the school’s activities for that day and that the principal will be notified as soon as the deputies arrive on the school grounds.

Board member Willis Octave applauded the agreement, saying he has visited with a resource officer in a neighboring parish and that he was impressed with the way he handled things.

“If we can control discipline, learning will be on the rise,” Octave said.

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