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Tuscarora School District to hire school resource officer

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, PA. ? Once the Tuscarora School District hires a school resource officer, it will likely create its own jurisdiction encompassing the campuses of its two secondary schools, four elementary schools and central office. The district currently has a memorandum of understanding with the Mercersburg Police Department, which is renewed annually, to provide police services for $5,000 a year. The board voted Monday to rescind the memorandum and create its own jurisdiction once a school resources officer is hired.

"An SRO is more than a police officer," Superintendent Rebecca E. Erb said. In addition to be certified as a law enforcement officer, she said, a school resource officer has additional training in school law issues.

There are no hours tied to the memorandum of understanding with Mercersburg, but officers from the department "far exceed the time for which we pay them."

The school resources position posted on the district's Web site has remained unfilled for several months, Erb said. The officer would work a 40-hour week, but most of the hours would likely be worked during the school year with a relatively light schedule in the summer, she said.

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Tuscarora has had to call on police services several times in the past year, the most recent this week in reaction to another threat written on a bathroom wall of James Buchanan High School last week. The school was searched Monday, but fewer than half the students were there Tuesday, the day mentioned in the threat.

"It's a shame we've come to this in the world, but I feel the district could use it," Terry DeWitt, a Mercersburg police officer, said Tuesday at the school.

New school board member Daryl Hunsberger said he worked at a school in Maryland with a resource officer.

"The students understand that fighting and violence are just not acceptable," Hunsberger said. "You will see a reduction in violence ... if they see an officer is present."

In addition to reacting to crimes on school property, a resource officer would perform a number of other duties, according to the job description: Event security, traffic control, truancy, patrolling district property and acting as a resource for teachers relating to law enforcement topics.

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