PERRYSBURG — A Perrysburgh school board member has suggested improving school safety by arming custodians.
The comments came during a working group meeting in which the school board discussed increasing safety options for the junior high, including hiring a school resource officer.
“First of all, I don’t think we need one at the junior high,” board member Kelly Ewbank said about a student resource officer. Instead, she suggested arming custodians and teachers or hiring a retired officer.
“Does it have to be a police officer? There are people who can be trained. You could have people with guns in the schools. So what is it you are looking for? There are other options that won’t cost $100,000,” Ewbank said.
No vote was taken at the working group meeting.
Board members heard from the current student resource officer at the high school, Greg Cole, as well as the high school and junior high school principals. There is also a D.A.R.E. officer at Hull Prairie School.
“They’re only showing one option. Which currently, right now, we do have an SRO at the high school. We pay the full salary. It’s $100,000,” Ewbank said. “My suggestion was to have more options than just this one. How do we know we can’t save money?”
She also suggested using a retired officer. She said Sylvania schools pay $80,000 for their retired officer.
According to Superintendent Tom Hosler, a retired officer cannot make an arrest, but must dial 911, like any other civilian.
Ewbank said the suggestion that a student resource office is needed is like saying that the junior high, Hull Prairie and the elementary schools aren’t safe.
“I don’t see the need for spending an additional $100,000 when currently, this year, we are at a deficit. We are still spending more money than we are bringing in. This year, 2020,” Ewbank said. “A lot of people voted for the levy because they didn’t want to see anything cut and they wanted the district to be in good financial health, not to just keep adding things. To be honest, even if it was free, I still don’t believe we need one.”
In November, voters passed an incremental levy for operating expenses.
Ewbank said that the only plan offered was hiring the SRO.
“I don’t know the laws, to be honest. I’m just asking, is that an option? What are the options? What is their bottom line? Do they want someone in the schools with a gun?” Ewbank said. “I’ve looked it up and I don’t think it proves in any way you’re safer.”
Board President Ray Pohlman is against having anyone other than a trained police officer in the building.
He is not supportive of arming staff members or custodians, but he does recognize that it is also part of a national discussion.
“It was part of my campaign to get an SRO in the building,” Pohlman said. “I think it’s important that we do get an SRO at the junior high school. I think that we are only one event away from what happened at Parkland or Sandy Hook and I don’t want to see that situation occur.”
Pohlman stressed the help that a student resource officer can be, almost like a counselor.
“Helping out with other issues with students … with that relationship building, the SRO is doing more than just walking around looking for trouble. He’s walking around and helping where it needs to be in the school system,” Pohlman said.
He is more supportive of having an officer in the school since a November police chase that included a school lockdown.
“(The gunman) could have just as easily run over to the junior high,” Pohlman said.
Board member Sue Larimer has made no secret of her concealed carry permit, but she stressed the amount of extra combat training police officers have and the counseling end of the student resource officer job description.
“(The SRO’s) ability to be there and befriend the students has had a calming effect, like he’s a counselor on the roll, without being a counselor. He hears, he sees, he reports,” Larimer said. “Is that expensive? Yes. But to take care of so many issues that are happening in schools that are so clandestine, with his training, teachers, principals and staff have so much going on, he can focus on his specialty.”