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Officers a welcome sight

It’s been said the most often-repeated word in the halls of a middle school might be “fight” — as in yells of “fight, fight, fight!” when a skirmish breaks out between students.
Thanks to a grant from the state, Rowan-Salisbury once again has school resource officers in its middle schools to deal with problems like fights and help students develop positive relationships with law enforcement. Let’s hope this grant is more than a one-time measure and the state makes these officers a regular part of the middle school scene.
Legislators talked a great deal last summer about improving school safety, particularly in light of the December 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. Everyone had good intentions, but legislators sometimes grew quiet when conversation turned toward how to fund increased safety measures. At one point, there was talk of having citizen volunteers carry guns on campuses to help with security.
Likewise, Rowan County commissioners were not inclined to fund resource officers for the middle schools, even though Sheriff Kevin Auten and school officials advocated for the positions. The state had cut the officers from the school budget at the height of the recession as a belt-tightening measure. Commissioners were willing to wait for the state to put them back.
Fortunately, something like that happened. The legislature OK’d $7 million to put resource officers in schools. Of that, Rowan-Salisbury got $234,000 for training and pay, which it matched with $117,000. The six who have been hired recently appear to have a deep well of experience to draw from in dealing with young people. One of them even has a career as a school principal behind him —Kenny Isenhour, who will be working at Landis Elementary School.
They join Shanita Millsaps, whom Salisbury Police assigned to Knox Middle School five years ago. City officials made stationing a resource officer at the school a high priority, despite the lack of state funds.
The school resource officers’ jobs have less to do with breaking up fights than with preventing them. The officers are expected to maintain a highly visible presence on campus, including at athletic events. They’re to be positive role models, interacting with students, families, faculty and staff, as well as presenting programs to prevent gang membership and drug abuse. They are truly a resource — for principals and students alike — a welcome sign of security. We’re glad they’re back.

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