Lutie and Dora schools join Bakersfield district in employing school resource officers
As an added measure of student and staff safety this school year, Dora and Lutie school districts have made the investment to each hire a certified sheriff’s deputy to serve as a school resource officer.
The two districts join Bakersfield School, which has had a SRO for several years.
Jeremy McKee was hired at Dora School, and Jeremy Fowler was hired by the Lutie School district. Both officers graduated from the Missouri Sheriff’s Academy in July and are fully-certified sheriff’s deputies within the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department.
The men are legally able to serve as reserve deputies within the department as needed, but their duties are mostly focused on working within their respective school districts to keep staff and students safe throughout the year.
The deputies’ salaries for their work at the schools is paid by the school districts.
Gainesville School District Superintendent Justin Gilmore says that its district does not currently employ an SRO because of sthe school’s close proximity to the sheriff’s department, a distance of just over three miles.
A huge asset
School officials say student safety is a growing concern, which prompted a discussion with the school boards and administration, and ultimately the districts’ decision to hire the officers.
Although not the only concern of school districts, potential school shootings are a possibility that schools are facing in recent times.
This year alone, there have been 28 school shootings in the United States that resulted in 24 children and three adult deaths, according to Education Week, an organization that has been tracking school shootings since 2018.
In 2018 and 2019, there were 24 shootings each year. The year 2020 brought 10 more, and in 2021 year there was the most recorded, 34 that year.
Sheriff Cass Martin recently told the Times that he feels that school resource officers are a huge asset to a county as large as Ozark, where a small department of officers is tasked with covering 755-square miles of land. If a situation arises at one of the five schools here, and the on-duty officer is in another part of the county, it can take a significant amount of time for the officer to get to the school. And when a dangerous situation presents itself, every minute counts, he said.
Bakersfield's longtime SRO
At Bakersfield, Deputy Wayne Romans has served as a SRO for several years.
Superintendent Amy Britt said having him at the school gives students and staff a feeling of safety and security.
“We have had a school resource officer for several years,” Britt said. “I think it has been about 9 or 10 years now. Response time was a key concern for the district when we decided to invest in a SRO. There is no city police for Bakersfield. With that in mind, there is a minimum of 30 minute response time. It could be longer if the deputy on duty is at the opposite end of the county. The school board prioritizes the safety and security of our students and staff and has added School Protection Officers in addition to our School Resource Officer,” Britt said.
Britt clarifies that school resource officers are different than “school protection officers,” which the school district and others in the county also utilize.
“A school resource officer is an actual member of law enforcement,” Britt explained. “A school protection officer is a certified educator who has been through the 120 clock hours of PEACE officer training in addition to quarterly qualifying with their weapon. There are several institutions that train SPOs including MU at their Law Enforcement Training Center in Columbia and MSU in Springfield,” Britt said.
She said the legislation that enacted SPOs requires 120 clock hours of Peace Officer training, including de-escalation of situations, mental health issues in addition to a variety of weapons training, school shooting response, qualifying with weapons and more.
“Officer Romans’ presence and expertise are much appreciated and contribute to the safety and security of the campus. When kids and teachers feel safe, better teaching and learning take place,” Britt said.