HARRISBURG, Pa. — The House of Representatives voted Monday to approve legislation authored by Rep. Todd Rock that would allow school districts in Pennsylvania to retain school resource officers (SROs) such as municipal police officers, as well as probation personnel, who are experienced in juvenile issues.
Rock, R-Franklin, said in a news release that under current state law, school districts are not permitted to use taxpayer funds to contract with local police departments or county probation offices in order to have their personnel keep regular hours and interact with school personnel.
Schools around the country that have employed SROs have seen dramatic changes in the respect students show their teachers, Rock said in the release. And, the early interventions SROs are trained to provide have helped prevent potential conflicts and other problems.
“Two years ago, the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District had to eliminate both its probation officer and its SRO positions, and these professionals had developed a great rapport with many of the students and had proven results in the short time they were there,” Rock said in the release.
“The school board’s legal counsel had advised that state law did not allow the board to retain these officers with taxpayer money, but the increased safety and mentoring these officers provided were invaluable,” he said.
Rock’s legislation, House Bill 2316, would correct this glitch, allowing schools to use their regular funds to have the professional presence of probation and law enforcement personnel on their premises.
After looking into the results Waynesboro Police Officer Travis Carbaugh had serving as the district’s SRO, Rock said he was impressed at the difference an SRO’s presence makes.
“During the 2008-09 school year, there were as many as 31 arrests in Waynesboro schools, but with Officer Carbaugh serving as the SRO during 2010, that number was essentially reduced by half,” Rock said in the release.
“With more than 4,200 students in the school district, it is essential educators and students have a reliable professional who can instill order if need be, and more importantly mentor students so that a heavy hand is rarely needed.”
Rock said in a phone message Monday that the plan for the bill is to include it in an all-encompassing education code bill that would pass along with other “noncontroversial” bills when the state budget is passed.
“This is something we do at budget time with noncontroversial bills. This was noncontroversial and we didn’t have any no votes so it looks like that is the way this will go,” Rock said in the message.
Lawmakers are hoping to pass a state budget by the end of the month.