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BoE hopes to further expand SRO program

Liberty County School System officials have expanded the use of school resource officers in the last year and hope to add more in the future.

The Liberty County Sheriff ’s Office has seven school resource officers in the county’s schools, with a lieutenant and a sergeant heading up the unit. Each of the county’s three middle schools and two high schools has an officer. There is also an officer at Liberty Elementary School, covered by the LCSO’s budget, and there is a separate agreement to provide a SRO at Coastal, which shares a campus with the Horizons Learning Center.

The total cost of the SRO program is $569,149, and the school system — thanks to a $585,000 security grant from the state Department of Education — is looking at adding SROs.

“We can’t say when and where tragedy will occur, but we can properly plan for it and reduce its likelihood,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra.

Dr. Barbra said the SROs in the schools have led to increased coverage and roaming officers can respond to all incidents. There also are increased response times. Plus, students now interact with law enforcement officers in more positive environments and circumstances.

This past school year, 676 elementary school students graduated from the sheriff’s office’s CHAMPS program. The 12-week program, targeted at fifth graders, points ways the students can navigate the internet safely without being susceptible to online predators, how to make safer choices and how to stay from drugs and alcohol.

School board chair Verdell Jones said student surveys show the students feel safe in the schools.

“What we have done so far, we feel, is going to help us if something happens,” she said.

The school board will receive a minimum of 20% of the proceeds of tickets generated through the RedSpeed traffic cameras. Cameras are set up in the school zones for Liberty County High School, Lyman Hall Elementary, Waldo Pafford Elementary and Taylors Creek Elementary.

Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said the school system may look at other safety upgrades soon.

“You all have done a great job,” he told school board members at their meeting Tuesday evening. “I think this district is in great shape.”

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