School Board nixes Student Resource Officer

A Student Resource Officer for Emmaus High School did not make it into the budget for this school year, but the idea of hiring one in the future is not completely out of the question.

Last year, The Stinger reported plans for the East Penn School District to employ a Student Resource Officer (SRO). An SRO is a certified law enforcement officer who is typically assigned to a particular school. A number of Lehigh Valley school districts, including Allentown, Parkland, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh and Salisbury, already enlist the services of one or more SROs. The primary objective of an SRO is to deal with disciplinary issues, but research has also shown them to be effective as teacher and counselor figures in a school.

The East Penn School Board heard proposals for hiring an SRO last school year, and it set aside $100,000 for an SRO in the preliminary budget for the current school year. The proposed SRO would be an active member of the Emmaus Police Department.

EHS Principal David Piperato, who believes that an SRO would be a positive addition to the high school, cites the school board budgeting process as why an SRO ultimately did not make it past the discussion phase.

“When it was brought forward to the board last year there was a pretty extensive discussion about A, the need for an SRO, and B, the cost of the SRO,” Piperato said. “The discussion was never elevated to the level of a formal vote because it came around the same time as the budget process… the board had decided at that time to no longer pursue an SRO, because of the budget.”

However, Piperato would welcome the idea of hiring an SRO to the EHS staff in the future.

“Those conversations [about hiring an SRO], if they are going to happen again, will only happen in a different economic climate,” Piperato said. “From the high school administrator perspective, absolutely [we would consider having an SRO in the future]. We are in full favor of an SRO, but of course that’s a decision that is beyond us.”

Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder was a strong proponent of an SRO last year, and continues to stand behind the importance of such an officer.

“It’s something that I want to continue to talk to [the board] about,” Schilder said. “I think it’s important and I think we have a good board who understands the pros and the cons of it– there are always two sides to every issue. I still think it’s a very worthwhile position to have… I think we are a safe high school, but I think we can be safer with an SRO. I don’t think an SRO is intrusive; I think an SRO can actually work very well with the current administration.”

Like Piperato, Schilder is in favor of reopening the possibility of hiring an SRO in the future if financial situations improve and the district budget would allow for it.

“The budget for this year is already settled, we could not afford it,” Schilder said. “Could we afford it next year? I don’t know yet because it’s too early in the budget process… if possible I would like to have another conversation with the board and the public about an SRO.”

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