Students say school safer with officer

December 14, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Students at Waynesboro Area Middle School say they notice less pushing, fighting and bullying in the halls thanks to the presence of a new school resource officer.

Waynesboro police officer Travis Carbaugh has moved into the job full time courtesy of a three-year grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. School officials said his addition to the local academic community was long overdue.

"We fought hard for this," said K. Marilyn Smith, a school board member whose work with the nonprofit organization Communities That Care secured the grant.

Although Carbaugh's position was created for the middle and high schools, he has been spending most of his time with the 650 seventh- and eighth-graders.


"I've been seeing a greater respect for rules," said Pat McDonald, a middle school English teacher. "He's an obvious presence."

"Everybody is conducting themselves better in the hallways," eighth-grader Lisa Johansson said.

Carbaugh already had been trained in Drug Abuse Resistance Education, commonly called DARE. He presents that curriculum to eighth-grade students and has helped teachers learn about criminal charges and bullying.

"I feel he's a big asset in our discipline policy as far as guiding students to make better decisions. ... It's important to have a safe place where teachers can teach and students can learn," said Kim Calimer, assistant middle school principal.

Waynesboro Police Chief Mark King hopes to one day have a second school resource officer so that the high school can have its own full-time designee. Smith plans to take data from Carbaugh's work to the school board after two years and ask for an additional officer.

Carbaugh said he has handled 30 to 40 incidents this year at the middle and high schools. Twenty arrests have resulted, most for simple assault, harassment, disorderly conduct or weapons violations at the high school.

"I like having him here because it's a lot safer," seventh-grader Kara Starliper said.

Carbaugh joins students during in-school suspension and talks about how they violated the Character Counts! program, which puts forth six traits of having good character.

"It's proactive and preventative," Calimer said. "It's providing a framework for thinking ethically."

"These kids are just forming their beliefs and attitudes," Smith said.

Since middle-schoolers tend to gossip, Carbaugh largely relies on students to alert him to possible incidents.

"They're pretty open with me," Carbaugh said. "My goal is to know all their names by the end of the year."

"I see a lot less of the bad kids messing around and bullying," eighth-grader Mary Dennis said.

Carbaugh enjoyed working with the high school staff to conduct a recent lockdown drill. They acted as if an intruder was in the hallways with a weapon.

"From a police standpoint, that's priceless having him do that with the teachers," King said.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant program requires local money be contributed toward the officer's salary and benefits each of the three years. An additional grant obtained by recently retired state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York, provided a large portion of those local dollars.

Carbaugh, who graduated from the school district in 1999, said he always had a desire to work in education.

"We're fortunate to have Travis," King said. "It's really about having the right person in the right position."

"It's pretty good because nobody picks on each other anymore when they see him around," seventh-grader Joey Gardenhour said.

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