Although the Octorara Area School District has received a $40,000 state safe schools grant to place an armed security officer on campus, school board members said March 17 they might not accept the grant.
Board members delayed their vote until their April 14 meeting to give more community members a chance to weigh in on the matter.
That angered about 30 community members of the district’s volunteer Community School Safety Task Force who applied for the grant and have lobbied the school board for more security since the 2012 Sandy Hook, Conn., school shooting.
“I’m pleading with you as a mother to use the grant money now,” said Kristin Weber from West Fallowfield Township.
Weber said she was speaking for children and for teachers, who should be able to teach and not have to be a first line of defense.
Board member Hank Oleyniczak, who is also a retired former commander of the Pennsylvania State Police, recommended implementing the grant by contracting for the services of a retired professional police officer through Signal 88 Security.
The grant gives the district seed money to put a school resource officer on duty at no cost this year. During the 2014-15 school year, the district’s cost for the officer’s services could run $30,000 to $50,000, depending on whether the officer would assume some of the before-and-after school traffic patrol currently handled by Signal 88 Security. There is no guarantee grant money will continue beyond next school year.
Board members Tim Alexander and Brian Norris raised concerns from their constituents about the officer’s job description and said some community members don’t want armed security on campus.
Many citizens stood to comment during the meeting, but only one cautioned the school board about accepting the grant.
Sandy Riehl of Highland Township said the school board would have to authorize the security officer to “shoot to kill a student.”
“The school board will never make that decision,” Oleyniczak said, noting that decision, in the event of school violence, would be in the hands of the police professional.