Rock sponsors bill for school resource officers

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Rep. Todd Rock (R-Franklin) has introduced legislation that would allow school districts in Pennsylvania to retain school resource officers (SRO) such as municipal police officers, as well as probation personnel, who are experienced in juvenile issues.

 Under current state law, school districts are not permitted to use taxpayer funds to contract with local police departments or county probation offices in order to have their personnel keep regular hours and interact with school personnel.

 House Bill 2316 would correct this glitch, allowing schools to utilize their regular funds to have the professional presence of probation and law enforcement personnel on their premises.

 In 2010 the Waynesboro Area School District eliminated both the probation officer and SRO positions. The SRO slot had been held by Waynesboro Police Officer Travis Carbaugh, who had great rapport with many of the students and had proven results in the short time he was there. This was done because the school board’s legal counsel advised that it was not permissible to retain the officer with taxpayer money.

 Rita Daywalt of the Waynesboro Area School Board noted that Carbaugh’s job as SRO was multifaceted.

 “He not only served as a law enforcement officer, but as a teacher and a mentor,” Daywalt said. “During Travis’ SRO tenure middle school incidents requiring police involvement decreased from 57 the previous year to around 20. The contribution he made to our schools cannot be overstated.”

 Rock credited Daywalt with bringing this issue to his attention, and that when he looked into it personally he was surprised at the difference an SRO’s presence makes.

 “During the 2008-09 school year, there were as many as 31 arrests in Waynesboro schools, but with Officer Carbaugh present during 2010, that number was essentially reduced by half,” Rock said. “With more than 4,200 students in the school district, it is essential educators and students have a reliable professional who can instill order if need be, and more importantly mentor students so that a heavy hand is rarely needed.”