It’s not yet a done deal, of course.
But the fact that money to cover the cost of a school resource officer for Gloucester High School — almost certainly through the Gloucester Police Department — is included in the schools’ preliminary budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 is a positive step in the name of school security, and in the name of helping to build positive relationships between police and students in what can become perhaps the ultimate example of community policing.
Many, of course, may see the idea of placing a police officer regularly in the high school as a step toward some sort of crackdown, when that’s simply not the case. The truth is, a school resource officer can certainly give students and teachers alike a better sense of security. But he or she can also show students that, indeed, police officers are on their side as long as they’re on the side of doing what’s right.
A resource officer can also take a proactive role in getting to sense when there can be trouble by simply getting to know the students and giving them someone else to trust and talk to. And as we noted last week, we’d like to think that a resource officer at GHS could well have averted the scare last December in which rumors that a specific student was bringing a gun to school days after Connecticut’s Sandy Hook school massacre stirred a number of understandably worried parents to rush to the school and haul their children out of classes for the day.
It’s also significant that this plan for a GHS resource officer who would also serve as a liaison to other schools comes less than week after the School Committee hosted a public hearing sparked by a petition drive by city residents and school parent Amanda Kesterson. And while it’s not clear that the call for a GHS resource officer was directly prompted by Kesterson’s efforts, it does also stand as a school district response to an issue that is rightfully in the local spotlight.
One school resource officer, of course, does not a security force make. And adding a resource officer to the mix at O’Maley Middle School, while perhaps rotating among the elementary schools as well, would likely prove positive.
But a resource officer at GHS is indeed a good first step, and a step that brings a wide variety of benefits for students, school personnel and police officials as well. This is one new position the School Committee and ultimately the City Council should be sure to keep in place.