Urbana considers school officer

By Casey S. Elliott - [email protected]

Urbana City Schools officials are considering hiring a school resource officer.

The school board heard about the possibility at its Tuesday board meeting.

Superintendent Charles Thiel told the school board the district had a school resource officer when he was assistant principal. He said Urbana Police Chief Matt Lingrell and city Director of Administration Kerry Brugger mentioned the idea to him separately while discussing safety plans at the district.

“It was an awesome program for the school, for me as a school administrator,” Thiel said. “I thought it was good for the students to get to know a police officer on a regular, daily basis and allow the police officer to build a relationship with the kids. It served the police well, the students well and the community well.”

Brugger said the city administration is looking forward to re-establishing an officer in the school district. He said he thought the last time there was an officer in the district was 2000-03.

“Schools across the nation are microcosms of society and are forced to deal with the same issues being addressed on the street,” he said. “Having an SRO (school resource officer) as part of the day-to-day interaction in the school, we can work to address … challenges early in their development, before they become larger issues.”

School resource officers have become more common in Champaign County recently. Graham Local Schools and Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools both have officers, and West Liberty-Salem Local Schools is also looking into the possibility.

The officer’s main function would be as a liaison between police and the district, establishing an “educational environment conducive to the learning process, address immediate safety concerns, and assist in the development of future programs and safety plans,” Brugger said.

Additional duties would be worked out by the district, the school board, the city and the police department, he added.

The officer would be employed by the police department, but that officer’s salary would be split between the district and the city, Thiel said. Estimated costs are not known at this time. Thiel told the board that, with its permission, he would investigate the costs and logistics of having an officer in the schools. The board gave him the go-ahead to investigate the possibility.

By Casey S. Elliott

[email protected]

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.