Accord reached

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

After receiving the support of Weston County School District No. 1, a local parent group headed by Sean Crabtree and Ty Checketts asked the Newcastle City Council on Jan. 6 to put an officer in the local schools. The group also asked for continued transparency regarding issues in the school district. 

On Jan. 7, Sheriff Bryan Colvard presented the parent group’s concerns to the Weston County commissioners during their meeting. 

After a lengthy discussion among parents, the City Council and other concerned parties, councilmembers reported their willingness to work with the community, parents, school district, county and local law enforcement. The council agreed to forming a committee to explore solutions to school safety concerns. 

Colvard told the commissioners that he was in favor of the entities working together because school safety is a community and nationwide issue that needs to be addressed. 

“We are here as concerned parents of the community. There have been a few incidents in the school district, threats to other kids. We live in a different society than 10 years ago. Things have changed from when we went to school,” Crabtree said. “Most of these parents and grandparents here had either a loved one or child on a kill list at the school. Some parents here don’t feel like law enforcement and the school board did what was needed to be done.” 

Crabtree said that the parent group would like to see the city and law enforcement work with the school district to better ensure the safety of the children. Checketts asked the city to consider putting law enforcement in the local schools full time. 

During the commissioners meeting, Colvard explained the concerns of the parents to the commissioners, stating that he didn’t know if a full-time school resource officer was necessary. 

“Those positions are hard to supervise. There is a distinct duty and a fine line between being the student’s buddy and not,” Colvard said. “I think there are other options, and I suggested to the mayor that maybe, instead of shooting from the hip, we put together a committee involving citizens — maybe some without kids in the schools and a couple that do — commissioners, City Council members, school officials and local law enforcement.”

Colvard said that, in his opinion, there must be a way to address the concerns of the parents and the safety issues without “throwing a ton of money at it.”

Colvard cited lack of funding for a school resource officer, as well as a history showing that the program doesn’t work in the community and the fine line that has to be taken by the officer. 

“It takes a unique person to be able to work with those kids but maintain that line – 90% of the cops I’ve met aren’t wired for that,” Colvard said. “I’m not saying that it couldn’t be done, but it would require a process to hire someone like that.” 

He added that the county would need to hire four different officers to put one in all the schools in the county and the city of Newcastle would need two to cover the schools in Newcastle. 

“A lot of places have gone to other ideas, and we need to look at that before we do anything,” Colvard said. 

According to Colvard, officers from both the police department and sheriff’s office make appearances in the schools throughout the day, including before and after school when the parking lots are busy. 

“I think we need to get a group together. School security is not just a law enforcement issue, it is a community issue,” Colvard said. “We need to get some fresh ideas and boots on the ground and then start hashing things out. There has to be a way to work within our means and get something done.” 

He said that a one-size-fits-all solution is not necessarily going to work. 

“The SRO (school resource officer) was a one-shoe-fits-all solution, and we know in our small community that is not always the best avenue,” Colvard said. “I don’t know what the answer to that is, and there are some internal issues within the school, no doubt. My personal opinion is that the issue was sluffed onto the city by the school, and the issue needs to be taken care of.” 

Colvard encouraged a team approach to the problem.

“I am not saying I know the right answer, but we need to put our ideas together and put something together that works for Weston County,” Colvard said. 

Mayor Deb Piana told the parents Monday evening that she would talk to the county and local law enforcement before reaching out to the parents about forming a committee to begin addressing the school safety issue. 

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