DEGRAFF – After several months of discussion and a virtually nonexistent response from the public, the Riverside Board of Education on Sept. 22 quietly voted to hire an armed guard to patrol the Riverside school building and campus during school hours. On the recommendation and advice of Logan County Sheriff Andy Smith, the resource officer, as the position will be known, will be filled by retired or auxiliary peace officers.
Superintendent Scott Mann said the resource officer will start the first shift on the campus Oct. 12. The plan calls for two officers to be hired and they are expected rotate work days and weeks. The resource officer will earn $17.50 an hour while on duty.
The decision to make the resource officer position available was one of several items, including the monthly budget and other routine matters, in the treasurer’s report at the Sept. 22 meeting. The board offered no discussion on the resource officer position and accepted the report without a dissenting vote.
The Riverside BOE made national headlines in November 2014 when it first publicly considered whether to have an armed response of some kind on the campus to protect the students and staff in case of an emergency, such as occurred at Newtown or Columbine.
In December 2014, the Riverside BOE made arrangements to move its regular meeting to the to the auditeria to accommodate what it expected to be a throng of parents and students who wanted to weigh in on the matter. On the first occasion, only one parent offered a question about the proposal to the board. For the second meeting, the board did not bother to change the venue, since no one attended to discuss the matter.
Board member Robert Bender was the only board member who publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the community’s non-response.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that we have such a low number of parents here,” Bender told those in attendance at the January meeting. “On the good side, I guess they trust us to make the right decision.”
Superintendent Scott Mann, Sheriff Smith and Chief Deputy Randy Dodds recently visited the Sidney City School to learn more about its armed response program. Being many times larger than Riverside in terms of enrollment, Sidney has several school buildings and its BOE made the decision to install firearms in lockboxes in the various locations. The lockboxes are accessible only by fingerprint scans of staff who receive special training.
The Riverside BOE agreed that the installation of lockboxes would not be practical for the Riverside campus and, instead, decided to create the position of resource office.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.