BHS looks to add campus cop

The school district may help fund the ‘resource officer’ position.

Barring a frame job, it was an open and shut case.

That’s because the culprits left their signature for the benefit of birds, airplanes and anyone else circling over the soon-to-be demolished 200 Building at Bainbridge High School.

They used tables and chairs – set to be moved from the doomed structure to a temporary lunchroom next door – to spell out their collective identity atop the building’s roof: ‘07.

Unfortunately, BHS Principal Brent Peterson said, since not every high school-aged perpetrator extends investigators the courtesy of a calling card, school officials and police must carefully craft the protocols by which officers and students interact.

“It’s often a judgment call,” Peterson said, of defining the line between “school business” and “police business.”

“We want to establish a little more clarity.”

Though they are early on in the process, school officials and police say they have in recent months made strides. Both hope to add a school resource officer, who would provide a police presence at the high school and improve communication between law enforcement and staff.

The Bainbridge City Council shot down funding for a school officer during city budgeting.Now school officials are discussing whether the district should help pay for a campus cop.

Doing so, said Superintendent Ken Crawford, could persuade the city to include the position in next year’s budget and would give the district input in the hiring process.

Crawford and the School Board on Thursday agreed the district should seek legal council to help determine the school’s role in law enforcement issues.

Along with trying to find a way to hire a school resource officer, officials hope to clarify both when school staff should report incidents as crimes and under what circumstances parents should be notified if police want to interview their child.

As it stands now, the law limits the amount of information police can release to the school district about student activity outside school.

For example, police can’t volunteer information to the school about an altercation between two students if it happens outside of school hours and off of school property.

But a formal connection, established via a school officer, would give school staff a window into issues that could spill over onto campus, Peterson said.

“We’re not talking about opening the floodgates and inquiring about every private infraction committed by students,” he said. “We need to talk about what legally and philosophically are the boundaries between school business and private life.”

Technology further blurs that line, he said, citing disputes that sometimes occur via the Internet between students at school.

When it comes to interviews, some school board members are unsure of the level of access police should be given to students without consent from parents.

In general, the school is obligated to notify parents of a child with whom police wish to speak, but there are situations, such as when police wish to speak with large numbers of students, when the extent of that obligation become less clear, said school board member Cheryl Dale.

Crawford said the review of protocols is about one-third finished.

The district plans to host public meetings in the coming months to help guide the process, which should be implemented by the beginning of the next school year.

“It’s important to put that which is legal first,” Crawford said. “And, obviously that which is in the best interest of kids is aligned with that.”

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