Cumberland Times-News

July 18, 2013

Answers needed on sheriff’s plan for schools

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— I am all for the security and protection of children in the school system. I just don’t believe that implementing Security Resource Officers is the most cost effective or appropriate way of assuring the students’ safety.

According to the July 9 Cumberland Times-News (“School security: Sheriff offers proposals”), Sheriff Craig Robertson was offering three recommendations that could provide additional security to Allegany County public and private schools outside municipalities in the county.

My wife and I attended the Board of Education meeting on July 9 to see what decisions would be made. The members of the board decided to use the third recommendation of Sheriff Robertson’s plan, which consists of a combination of SROs and retired law enforcement officers. The retired officers could continue to provide rotating security to the schools while SROs could provide the same along with DARE training.

A minimum of 12 additional SROs would be needed to allow for all the schools to be provided this training, along with two or three additional security officers to rotate throughout the schools, according to the sheriff.

A committee put together by Robertson compiled a comprehensive 13-page report on which the sheriff based his recommendations. The committee's report included information based on interviews with school administrators, teachers and staff at various schools. I was just curious if any of the students, along with their parents, were interviewed or asked to share their thoughts on the recommendations.

While at that same BOE meeting, I was informed that the SROs and retired law enforcement officers would have jurisdiction within the schools themselves.

I was wondering if that meant that they would be able to arrest any students for fighting on school property. If that is permitted, I also wanted to know if those students would be put through the Juvenile Justice System.

In case any parents believe that would be the best thing for their children, I pose this question: Do you want your child to have a permanent record? When that child applies for a job or a college, the person or persons involved with the process of hiring or reviewing the college application will have access to that child’s criminal record.

Therefore, that may be the deciding factor on whether or not that individual is hired for the job or accepted to that particular college. Also, I want to add that in order to get charges taken off your criminal record, those charges must be expunged, which takes time and money. Speaking of money, where did the county come up with the $190,000 allotted to the sheriff to implement his plan?

There are a few more concerns I have about the sheriff’s plan. The first being, from what I learned at the BOE meeting, is that the SROs will only have jurisdiction inside of the schools.

That made me wonder how the children would be protected getting on and off the buses. For example, if there was somebody with a sniper rifle or a bomb, how would the SROs prevent a disaster? I would also like to know how the SROs are going to prevent students from bringing weapons into the schools. Are they going to use metal detectors, strip searches, or just simply pat the students down?

I would like to end this letter by stating that even though my wife and I have yet to be blessed with children of our own, we do have nieces, cousins, and friends with children in the school system. Hopefully by my writing this letter, the parents of these wonderful students will get the answers to these hard questions that I feel they are entitled to.

Allen “Mikey” Carder

Mount Savage