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Grant to benefit Tahoma School District school resource officer program

The Tahoma School District school resource officer program will benefit from $25,000 as part of a grant obtained by the King County Sheriff’s Office.

It was announced at the Jan. 13 Maple Valley City Council meeting by City Manager David Johnston that part of the funding was secured for the Tahoma program.

Maple Valley Police Chief Michelle Bennett wrote in an email that she will meet with Rob Morrow, the principal of Tahoma Junior High who has been named the next superintendent of Tahoma schools effective upon Mike Maryanski’s retirement this summer, on Friday to discuss how to best use the funds.

Bennett also wrote that the funds will pay for officers to act as school resource officers, who interact with students as well as schools staff and promote school safety.

School resource officers fill a number of duties including responding to any kind of incidents which require law enforcement at schools, building relationships with students and staff, participating in safety assessments, providing feedback, dispelling myths and participating in educational opportunities for students and staff.

The district currently has one school resource officer who spends 10 hours a week at primarily the high school, district spokesman Kevin Patterson said.

The district also pays for 10 hours per week of random security checks by off duty officers who walk around the schools and check in with staff members.

Patterson added that the district currently spends $90,000 for the school resource officer program and for traffic control at the high school, which is also provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

Patterson explained that the school resource officer program used to be paid for by a federal grant, but that that funding went away two or three years ago.

“We didn’t have him (the officer) for quite as many hours as we did when we had the grant, but we tried to keep as much of it in tact as we could afford,” Patterson said.

Tahoma’s Safety and Security Coordinator, Sean Kelly — who is also the deputy mayor of Maple Valley — told the Reporter in July that knowing students is key to helping keep students and staff safe.

The school resource officer program for Tahoma began after the school shooting in Columbine in 1999 thanks to a federal grant and the funding was taken over by King County, the district, and the city of Maple Valley.

Kelly said in July that when funds got tight, the county and the city both cut the funding from their budgets and the district was able to keep the program going until 2010.

“Every time we had a problem with something we had to wait hours to get a sheriff’s deputy here (at the school) because we’d call 911 and they prioritize such things,” Kelly said, of when the program had been suspended, in July. “If there’s an accident somewhere, or anything going on, and we’ve got a kid in here with drugs, that’s kind of a low priority. To us that’s a high priority, it’s totally opposite, which I understand, totally — you know the kid’s not doing anything.”

Kelly told the Reporter last summer that he views the SRO program as a key piece of the school safety puzzle because it gives the district a designated go-to person in the Sheriff’s Office and helps with the relational component.

The district re-instituted the SRO program on a part-time basis this year.

The Kent School District, which neighbors Tahoma, has two resource officers who are members of the Kent Police Department and also has police officers who randomly stop by schools to touch base.

 

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