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Parents push for school resource officer in Lancaster

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
December 05, 2018
LANCASTER — On Nov. 19, a handful of local parents attended a select board meeting to discuss the possibility of hiring a school resource officer after a recent bomb threat prompted an evacuation at the Lancaster Elementary School.

Clare Brooks was the spokesperson for the group of concerned parents. Brooks relayed to those at the meeting that the Lancaster Police Department handled the situation well. Parents asked the board when an SRO would be hired to work at the elementary school. With the money in the budget through the school, parents inquired as to what the next steps would be and offered any help to expedite the process.

The board relayed to the parents that the Lancaster Police Department has one officer graduating from the academy this month and that another individual has been hired, however still needs to complete training. Any officer who becomes an SRO will undergo specific training.

Lancaster's Police Chief, Tim Charbonneau, explained to the group that it has taken one year to find two people qualified to hire and send off to the academy. Currently the department is seeking a third hire. Charbonneau has plans on placing one of his part time officers in the school during the holiday season even though they will not be technically qualified as an SRO. The reason for this is that the holiday season tends to be a difficult time for some children and adults. Charbonneau explained that the department along with the school busses are on the same frequency and that each teacher has a radio. The police department is always monitoring what is going on at the school and is quick to respond when called upon according to Charbonneau.

The SRO will be paid for by the school district, however during the summer months the town will pay said officer's salary.

Charbonneau emphasized that the school is getting the best protection possible despite having someone in the school full time. He explained that he does a walk-through whenever possible.

As for the outcome of the meeting, Brooks said, "I would say it seemed unlikely the school would be able to get an SRO anytime soon, but with the way the school and police department work so closely together already, the constant monitoring and the number of times the police department stops in daily, I feel they are already very much on top of their portion of the responsibility to our children."

Brooks added, "It would seem the problem lies with us as parents teaching our children what the repercussions of their actions actually are and administration imposing harsher punishments. Punishments for these sort of actions that enlist bomb squads and other forces should start to include parents being fined when law enforcement has to become involved and the whole school is disrupted. Most certainly community service like scrubbing down and fixing things at school that may have been defaced or damaged by our child's misconduct."

Brooks went on to say, "Something definitely needs to change and it has to start with the parents and the administration. Our children need to know that as they get older actions like these have permanent effects on their future and others."

Select board member Leon Rideout agrees with Town Manager Ed Samson that the right person needs to be hired, adding "The board is dedicated to putting the right person in that important position. We are looking at various ways to accomplish it as soon as possible."

Charbonneau, along with board member David Stickney, has tentative plans to attend the Parent Teacher Organization meeting this evening at 6 p.m.

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