BOSCOBEL - When Boscobel’s school year starts on September 1, one of the new staff members will be wearing a badge. That will be the new school resources officer, a (yet-to-be-determined) member of the Boscobel Police Department whose salary will be paid in part by the Boscobel Area School District.
“The officer is not the strongarm for getting students to behave in the classroom,” said Boscobel Police Chief Jaden McCullick said. “This officer will not deal with discipline issues; it is strictly legal matters where the law has åbeen broken.” That includes truancy, as the City of Boscobel has a truancy ordinance.
The officer would also be a first responder to a school crisis like a shooting. School resource officers receive special training in both community policing and crisis response.
“In the past, the school would always pay us for an officer for prom and homecoming. This will now be under a contractual agreement between the school and police department. The school district has agreed to pay $10,000 per year toward the service,” McCullick reported.
Both the school district and police department will have a “memorandum of understanding” which the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction strongly suggests. That document will spell out what the position entails, but the officer will fall under the police department’s policies and procedures, McCullick stated.
Boscobel schools joins a growing trend, related in part to recent school shootings, in placing armed officers in the school. “Let’s be real. Sadly, it is needed,” McCullick said. Between 14,000 and 20,000 officers are on duty in schools nationwide, according to estimates from The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).
Locally, Prairie du Chien is also adding a school resource program, and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department has a deputy that spends time at Seneca, Wauzeka and North Crawford schools, according to McCullick.
“Those districts actually pay a larger amount for the officer. It was something that the sheriff’s department set up a number of years ago and has worked out really well. I think that they have had a lot of success with it,” McCullick said. “The sheriff’s department pays part and the three schools pay the other part.”
In addition to handling legal issues, the school resources officer is there to build a rapport between the police department, school district and community.
“The officer is also there to foster relationships with students and have a law enforcement presence within the school,” McCullick said.
The first year of implementing the officer will include some experimentation, according to McCullick. Figuring out the exact role of the officer that the school wants and what the police department can provide will be important in having a successful operation.
“I am sure that there is going to be changes with the officer as we head into the second year and possibly even the second semester,” McCullick said.
McCullick added that he believes that this position is invaluable. “I think it is extremely needed,” he said. “Not only in Boscobel, but every school.”
In addition to academic hours, the officer will attend extracurricular activities.
“It might be that the officer will be at the school for an hour during the day and then attend the football game that evening. The time will be spread out and not the same time every day,” McCullick said. “It will be fairly fluent as to how and when the officer is present.”
In conjunction with the new position, the police department plans to initiate the CounterAct Program in the Boscobel Area School District. McCullick said that it is similar to Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) that the Grant County Sheriff’s Department hosts. The program does talk about drugs but puts more emphasis toward life choices and adversity.
“I felt like having a dedicated program that focused on school safety and building a connection with the students was an area that we needed to address. The program is somewhat intense and includes a graduation ceremony at the end of it,” McCullick said.
McCullick is looking forward to getting CounterAct in the school and said that the program will be rolled out in the second semester of the school year.
The CounterAct Program and school resources officer are both ways of ensuring that students are making correct life choices and are safe while at school.“We are at a point in our life, and it is sad that we have to have a security system in place,” McCullick said. “We as law enforcement need to do what we can to protect these kids and try to head off problems before they become big problems. Hopefully, we can get something good rolling here. I think that we are on the right track.”