By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools has entered into an agreement with the Madison Township Police Department to provide a school resource officer for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year.
The Madison Township Police SRO joins a Fairfield County SRO who is already on duty. The district began discussions with Madison Township after the county sheriff’s office said they could not provide a second SRO due to staffing.
Currently, the Fairfield County deputy spends most of his day at the high school and travels to other campuses as needed. The township resource officer will split time between the middle school and two elementary buildings.
“I do believe having a relationship with Madison Township with an SRO would be extremely important in adding an extra layer of security and safety in our district,” said Superintendent Kiya Hunt. “Having trained school resource officers to support our school administrators and staff is an important piece of our overall safety and security plan for our schools. In addition to SROs, the Canal Winchester Schools safety plan also includes a comprehensive mental health support program, trained threat assessment and crisis response teams, safety drills with students, and training for teachers and staff. We look forward to working in partnership with Madison Township Police Department and Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office to keep our schools safe, secure, and welcoming for all students and staff.”
Board President Kevin Butler said safety is a priority for Canal Winchester Schools and it is better to be proactive instead of reactive.
“We’ve been mulling around ideas,” said Butler. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with Madison Township. This is a big deal. We know finding a good officer is a challenge. Keeping our students and staff safe is our top priority. We are grateful to the Madison Township Trustees and Madison Township Police Department for their support in adding a second resource officer to enhance safety and security at our schools.”
The district and police department hope to have an officer in place by mid-October.
When asked about any differences in working with the sheriff’s department, Madison Township Police Chief Gary York said he anticipates having the same type of relationship his SRO has at the Groveport Madison High School with the Groveport Police Department SRO.
“That relationship has really developed and given that school a good sense of security,” said York. “I don’t see any difference. I see us working alongside the sheriff’s department SRO.”
Hunt pointed out a couple of differences in practice between the two departments, but she felt they would not clash. The Fairfield County SRO does not wear a body camera, whereas the Madison Township officer does and, according to Hunt, will turn it on if a situation warrants.
“I feel cameras are very important and we need to work to get all of our officers on school grounds to have a camera when it involves our student,” said board member Vangela Barnes. “It is important to have a picture of what transpires, not just a witness.”
In addition, the township SRO carries a taser and the county SRO does not.
Board member Matt Krueger said that over the last five years, the district has focused attention on addressing the mental health aspect in educating students and “beefing” up the staff and resources for families and students.
“Bringing on a second SRO is a piece to that puzzle of safety in the classroom,” said Krueger. “There’s safety outside and inside the buildings. I appreciate the board and administration’s help in bringing this all together and creating a safe environment for students and faculty. I’m proud to bring on a second SRO. It’s a good day.”
State Report Card results
The news was good when Canal Winchester Local Schools opened up its state report card for the 2021-22 school year, considering the district was battling the effects of a global pandemic dating back to 2020.
“I am happy to report the district has met or exceeded state expectations for learning across the board,” said Superintendent Kiya Hunt during a Sept. 19 board meeting. “This is due to our students, teacher and staff dedication over the last two years to recover from the interruptions and setbacks due to the COVID 19 pandemic. We are proud to see continued excellence in gap closing and exceeding progress expectations.”
In moving forward, Hunt said her staff will closely review the report card data and identify areas where there is room for improvement.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, the district met five out of five standards in Gap Closing, which measures reductions in educational gaps for student subgroups. The score significantly exceeds state standards.
Canal Winchester’s Graduation Rate and Progress (a measure of student growth) met four out of five standards and exceeds the state standard. The district met three out of five standards for Achievement—student performance on state tests—and Early Literacy, grades kindergarten through third grade.
Township trustees approve SRO for CW Schools
By Linda Dillman
Students will soon see a pair of school resource officers in their hallways following Canal Winchester Schools’ agreement with the Madison Township Police Department to add another officer to their SRO staff.
During an early morning special Madison Township trustee meeting on Sept. 19, prior to the Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting that night, the trustees approved providing a Madison Township Police officer as a school resource officer for the 2022-23 school year.
The agreement is similar to one the township has with Groveport Madison Schools.
According to Madison Township Police Chief Gary York, following school board approval and per a Fraternal Order of Police agreement, the job must be posted in-house for five days for officers with at least three years of service with the department.
“This is a pretty quick-moving process,” said York. “I anticipate this to be a smooth transition like we had five years ago with Groveport. I think that transition went smoothly.”
The Madison Township officer will work in tandem with a Fairfield County deputy sheriff covering the high school, middle school and elementary schools. York anticipates his officer to start off at the middle school and elementary buildings.
“We are not disciplinarians,” said York. “We’re there for the kids.”
According to the agreement, violations of the student code of conduct or school rules that are not criminal matters will be handled by school faculty and staff, not SROs.
The officers are told they should not directly intervene unless the situation directly affects an imminent threat to the health, safety, and security of the student or another person in the school and will employ de-escalation techniques as appropriate.
School discipline is the responsibility of the appropriate school administrator.
York expects his Madison Township officer to start as soon as Oct. 3. While the Canal Winchester SROs are contracted by the district for the school year, they return to their regular department positions for the rest of the year.
For the current school year, Madison Township is being reimbursed for school services at a prorated amount for the first year since the memorandum began after the start of the 2022-23 year. The cost is based on a fixed percentage of the SRO’s current department salary and benefits, depending on who applies and is chosen for the position.
“I was approached by Canal Winchester Schools,” said York, “and learned they have been looking for a second SRO for some time. It’s also something I’ve been thinking about for some time as well. I’m very excited about this opportunity. I know we have a successful program at Groveport. I think SROs are very important in the community and the bond our Groveport SRO has with the kids is incredible.”
All SROs appointed after Nov. 2, 2018, must complete an additional 40 hours of school resource officer training within one year of appointment.
SROs are encouraged to receive additional training each year on topics such as trending school-based law enforcement topics, child development, adolescent psychology, trauma, conflict resolution, mental health and addiction, children with disabilities, juvenile and education law and policy, and cultural competence.
SROs also engage in traditional criminal investigation and report-taking. They have the authority to issue warnings, make arrests, and use alternatives to arrest at their discretion, mindful of the common goal of supporting student success.
SROs are not involved in searches conducted by school personnel unless a criminal act is involved or unless school personnel require the assistance of the officer because of exigent circumstances, such as the need for safety or to prevent flight.
They are allowed to participate in a search of a student’s person, possessions, locker, or vehicle only where there is probable cause to believe that the search will turn up evidence that the student has committed or is committing a criminal offense.
While the employment of a school resource officer by the district for the school year diverts the officer from regular township duty, township trustees approved hiring a new officer effective Oct. 3 contingent upon successful completion of all required testing and evaluations.
“We also have two more in the pipeline,” said York, who asked for patience as the department works through the hiring process.