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  • Writer's pictureSUTV Writer

Shippensburg School District's SRO Program Earning Positive Reviews

Austin Bryner 5/9/2024

After recently installing a Student Resource Officer (SRO) program in the school district, Shippensburg Area schools are seeing positive results a year later.

Initially unanimously voted to be approved last year on February 21, the program is designed to keep students in schools safe, by being in the area and at the school throughout the day. Before the installation of the program last year, Shippensburg was one of the few schools in the surrounding area without an SRO, until receiving a PCCD Safety Grant. The grant would be used to partner with the Shippensburg Borough Police Department to contract an SRO. Currently, the police department has three trained officers in the program and one is placed in the district daily. A total of five school buildings are covered by officers, sometimes starting at different times.

The SRO program doesn’t just take place in the local area but nationwide, Police Chief Thomas Young would describe how widespread and successful the program is as a whole.

“The SRO program is nationwide. It is very successful in every school that participates. Some schools elect to create their own police department. Both programs do create a financial burden and not all schools can afford the coverage,” said Young.

Assistant Superintendent of the Shippensburg Area School District and district safety coordinator, Leslee Delong would provide insight into what the program adds to the district,

“It has been an excellent partnership for the district. The SROs add a layer of security in the buildings- regularly checking in and developing a rapport with the students and staff of the community,” said Delong.

According to the Police Department and Police Chief Thomas Young, the biggest issues the schools are currently dealing with are fights and vaping. They have an average of about one to two fights a week, mainly in the middle and high school. Often it is seen not only in the Shippensburg school district but also around the country, students usually pull out their phones and record said fights. Sometimes some of these fights can be classified as assaults and attacks, where the students are being charged accordingly. An increase in students vaping is also being seen throughout the district. This causes worry, as not all side effects of vaping is known on adults let alone children. Efforts are being made to reduce use by showing a bigger presence. However, these efforts are somewhat limited because the funding is not there to afford to put an officer in each school.

While the program has been successful the need for more officers in the program is known. The current biggest struggle regarding this situation is that there are not enough officers to cover

regular patrol on some days and the SRO is basically the second officer that day. additionally is becoming harder and harder to recruit new officers to the force. In addition, there is a competition of wages with West Shore districts and it is a much more wealthy area to compete with wages. It is currently being considered by the Police Department to hire a part-time officer just for the SRO program.

Police Chief Thomas Young would provide an insight into not only the effect this program has on him and other officers, but also establish the primary goal and job of an SRO officer.

“I do not have the chance to be the SRO as much with my promotion but I love greeting the children coming to school. I push myself to learn some of their names and make it a point to talk to them. I would be content to just go to the elementary schools for the rest of my career. Most of those children love seeing us, not so much at the high school level. My hope would be that these students will see the positive impact we make and they may want to be a police officer in the future. Our job is to bridge the gap from the school rules and the criminal justice system. It takes a special officer to be an SRO. Maturity is a must, we do not want to send an officer with less life experience in there and arrest every child for every violation. We do expect each officer to be involved in the students in some form or another by creating a positive role model or just giving a child a much-needed smile and saying good morning,” said Young.

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