WHITELAND, ind - One month after Johnson County voters approved an 8-year, $12 million referendum for school safety measures at Clark-Pleasant Schools, the district is already in the process of hiring new police officers to work in school buildings.
Clark-Pleasant officials hope to have two new resource officers hired in time to start working in schools after students return from winter break. Currently, the district has three officers working during the school day. One officer works inside Whiteland High School, another officer works inside the middle school, and a third officer is stationed outside between the two buildings. The two new officers will share duties at the district’s five elementary schools, starting in January.
“The message we hope it’s sending is that safety is our first priority, and that we care about the needs of the students,” district spokesperson John Venter said.
Hiring the two officers is just the beginning of a district-wide plan to increase safety and security at Clark-Pleasant Schools. Eventually, officials hope to have at least one police officer permanently stationed inside all eight buildings in the district.
Administrators are also in the midst of a nationwide search for a Director of School Safety, and Coordinator of Mental Health Services.
The school safety director would head up all matters related to police and security at school facilities and events.
The mental health services coordinator would be in charge of all school counselors, and serve as a liaison between students and mental health services in the community they may require.
“We’ll do everything we can to make sure they are, that students and faculty are safe and secure as they attend school,” Venter said.
Clark-Pleasant officials are still discussing whether to start its own police department, or continue to rely on resource officers from surrounding departments like Greenwood, Whiteland and New Whiteland.
“I think it shows the priority they place on school safety,” said Chase Lyday, First Vice President of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association. “That’s best indicated by the amount of money you spend on personnel to keep the schools safe.”
Lyday says resource officers provide a valuable presence in schools beyond responding to problems and patrolling for trouble. He says officers are most effective when they are able to develop relationships with students. Lyday says a district that can start its own police department has a strong chance of establishing good relationships between students and police officers, because the same officers can interact with the same students every day.
“Consistency means building relationships with the same kids every day, being there in the good times and bad, through growth, through discipline,” Lyday said. “So you have more of an idea of how best to deal with a kid.”
Venter said discussions on starting a new police department will likely include a hybrid approach that also utilizes officers from outside departments. He said those discussions will ramp up after the district hires its school safety director, likely in February.
“This kind of discussion is a little bit new for schools,” Venter said. “And we want to make sure we’re gathering all the intelligence we can and weighing all our options and putting everything on the table so we can make good decisions.”