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Morgan schools to get two more SROs

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

The Morgan County school district will add a pair of school resource officers in the fall, but it still won’t have one full-time SRO for each school.

Morgan County commissioners approved the two full-time SRO positions at a rate of $21.25 an hour. That will bring the county’s total to 11 full-time and part-time SROs for 18 schools. Because of two vacant part-time positions, the school district has seven SROs on its 14 campuses.

Sheriff Ron Puckett said the new SROs will begin work at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. His office will be providing 10 of the 11 certified SROs, with Trinity providing the other one.

The sheriff’s office and Morgan County school officials said the ultimate goal is to have one SRO at each school. They said this is an obtainable goal.

“We want our full-time SROs at high schools and part-time ones at elementary,” Puckett said. “The school board has been a big help in seeing that vision and funding that vision. It’s important we have an officer presence visible on campus. Students and staff feel safer. The community feels safer.

“It’s nice to live in an area where school violence isn’t a big issue. Our officers want to do their part to keep it that way.”

Deputy Superintendent Lee Willis called one SRO per school – not campus – feasible.

“We believe one SRO per school would be an excellent position. Some schools, campuses or communities might need more than one SRO to

adequately protect, due to things like high-vehicular traffic areas and other conditions,” he said.

The Morgan County school system has a budget of $285,050 to fund the program, according to Chief School Financial Officer Brian Bishop. The district pays for the SROs, and the sheriff’s office hires, trains and equips the officers.

SROs have arrest authority, Puckett said.

“Most of the concerns we handle are harassment cases from people on social media and some minor illegal drug activity at the schools,” he said. Vaping and marijuana possession are common issues, he said.

He said despite virtual learning with students at home, SROs are still on campus.

“It hasn’t changed,” Puckett said. “The staff is there at work; they are just as important as the students. If the school is open and people are there working, our SROs will be there.”

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark said the mass shooting Monday in a Colorado supermarket, which left 10 people dead, emphasizes the need to protect students and staff.

“Shootings like that are a part of life we can’t control. What happened in Colorado makes you realize we need to do what we can to protect people, our students,” he said.

Clark said he hopes the Alabama State Department of Education will contribute to funding more SROs.

Decatur City Schools currently has eight SROs covering the city’s 18 campuses.

Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Dee Dee Jones said HCS has either an SRO or school protection officer at all six campuses.

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