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Palisades weighs hiring a school security officer


Palisades School District parents and community members have until Monday to take a survey that will help guide coming school security policy decisions.

Among those is whether the high school needs a security officer — and, if so, whether the individual should be armed.

The survey is the work of a school board ad hoc committee composed of Dave Haubert, Silvia LeBlanc and Dawn Grochowiak that will share the results at a public meeting next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Palisades High School library.

By the end of the committee’s April 12 meeting, the group expects to have developed a recommendation for the full school board to consider.

“There is currently $110,000 built into next year’s budget to fund one officer/guard; however, this expenditure can be removed prior to passing the final budget if the position is not deemed necessary for the district,” reads an introduction to the survey.

Palisades Superintendent Dr. Bridget O’Connell presented the survey to the ad hoc committee on Feb. 22 and explained three options the district can pursue.

• It can bring in a school resource officer, typically a municipal police officer who is assigned to the school. The Quakertown Community School District has one.

• It can hire its own school police officer, usually someone who has previously worked in law enforcement. That’s what Pennridge School District does.

• It can hire a school security guard, a position that does not require a law enforcement certification. New Hope-Solebury uses a school security guard.

“No local incident predicated this discussion,” said O’Connell, in a written response to several questions. “Rather, the district regularly discusses school safety and personnel is part of that discussion.”

She stressed that the district has a strong relationship with Pennsylvania State Police, as well as officers in the Springfield and Tinicum municipal police departments.

“Troopers and officers from all departments are and have always been welcomed into our schools for unannounced visits, safety checks, consultation and collaboration about trends in safety and security, or of course, for specific incidents requiring their presence,” O’Connell said.

The survey includes a question about whether the survey-taker would prefer to see an armed officer or an unarmed officer, then asks for an explanation as to their reasoning.

District spokeswoman Donna Holmes said that about 150 people had responded to the survey as of Tuesday morning. Neither she nor O’Connell would tip their hand regarding the results so far.

“The board first needs to make a determination whether or not they want to hire school security personnel, then they will determine whether that person should be armed,” O’Connell said.

A timeline for a final decision has not been developed yet, she added.

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