Jefferson Co. putting deputy in high school

May 04, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to put a sheriff's deputy in Jefferson High School after Principal Richard A. Keeler pleaded for help in dealing with an escalating level of anger among students.

Keeler told the Board of Education he has never seen such an unpredictable climate in a school in the 35 years he has worked in public education.

There have been about 30 cases of destruction of property at the school this year, and last Wednesday, all 1,600 students were sent home for the day after a bomb threat was called in to the school.

Keeler and a number of frustrated teachers who accompanied him to a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night want a deputy to help control disciplinary problems at the school, located about 2 miles north of Charles Town along Flowing Springs Road.


"I want him dressed in a uniform and I want him carrying a gun," Keeler said regarding the deputy.

The decision comes on the heels of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., which has sparked tensions in schools across the country.

But Jefferson High was having problems before the incident at Columbine.

In January when Keeler was trying to get support for a deputy, he described several incidents at the school, including the expulsion of several students for fighting.

Another student was expelled after allegedly stabbing another pupil in the face with a pen, and on another occasion, state police were called to the school after a student became violent, Keeler said.

There were several incidents of vandalism to cars in the school's parking lot on Monday, including the slashing of two tires on one car.

David Huegel, whose daughter drives that car, said he supports a deputy in the school to bring the vandalism under control.

"If you put prevention in place, you're not going to have an incident like in Colorado," Huegel told the Board of Education.

Others had concerns about putting a deputy in the school.

Jane Grissinger said guns make her nervous, "even in the hands of trained officers."

Jim Tolbert, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has questioned whether police should be involved in anything but law enforcement.

Tolbert wanted to know what kind of experience the officer has in counseling and whether the deputy would receive multicultural training.

Despite approval of the deputy, Board of Education members also voiced several concerns.

Board President Larry Togans said he wants to make sure the deputy selected for the job is good with students.

Sheriff William Senseney has said Deputy Thomas Hansen will likely be assigned to the job.

There was debate, also, over who will pay for the deputy.

About 75 percent of the cost will be paid through a grant from a federal program to help communities put more police on the streets. The rest of the money would come from local government.

Senseney said the Jefferson County Commissioners, who fund the sheriff's department, have suggested the Board of Education help pay for the position.

Senseney said issues of funding, whether the deputy will be armed and other details will have to be worked out.

The Herald-Mail Articles