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Westford Superintendent Everett V. Olsen and Westford Police Chief Thomas McEnaney joined state Rep. James Arciero (a Westford-Democrat) to testify in support of House Bill 4378: An Act Relative To School Resource Officers, before the Joint Committee on Education Tuesday at the State House.
The legislation, filed to assist Massachusetts cities and towns to hire former state and local police as school resource officers, would allow municipalities to hire retired state and local police officers to fill these important public safety positions full time. The bill was initiated after school safety discussions with McEnaney and Olsen.
“The safety of our children has become a major focus of concern given several recent school tragedies around the nation. This legislation seeks to further enhance the safety of our schools and ensure a secure learning environment for our students,” said Arciero.
Currently, there is a 960 hour limit on the number of hours such retirees can work in municipal or state government, which translates into approximately 120 eight-hour days. Given the strong concern felt for the safety of school children, the legislation proposes that the 960 hour limit be exempted in order that retired state and local police can be employed as school resource officers for the entire 180 days of a standard school year.
In addition, these employees will not be compensated for any additional benefits, such as health care coverage or pension investments, as they will already receive such benefits through their existing retirement systems. The legislation will offer greater financial flexibility for Massachusetts cities and towns as they fund school resource officers within the scope of limited municipal budgets.
“I strongly feel that arming teachers and other educational personnel is not the answer to improving school safety. However, it is vital for school systems to be able to access a pool of professionally trained and experienced former law enforcement personnel to assist school systems in providing a safer, more secure educational environment. We want our students and staff to be able to focus on the excitement of classroom activities, and the building of a school community of friendships, respect, and trust; and not on the anxiety associated with the possibility of school violence,” said Westford Superintendent Olsen.
“As a legislator and father, I know the protection of our children has to be our number one priority,” said Arciero, who recently toured Westford Academy high school to review current safety procedures with local school and police officials. This tour was conducted to examine ways in which state government can assist local communities in providing greater school security.”
“This legislation will allow local school districts to access a highly-trained pool of applicants for these important public safety positions. They generally will have decades of experience and in most cases be very knowledgeable about the communities and schools they will be working in as SRO’s,” said McEnaney.
Massachusetts School Resource Officers are certified by the completion of a 40 hour course. This program, conducted by the National Association of Student Resource Officers, provides instruction in ethics, social media, diversity, informal counseling and mentoring, understanding teen development, understanding special needs students, youth trends, drugs, crime prevention, school safety and threat response.
“I believe this strikes a balance between public safety needs and municipal finances by allowing our local cities and towns to consider the use of retired police to serve in these positions for the entire school year. It is an innovative approach to utilize these specialized individuals to provide security in our schools and ensure a safe environment where children can focus on learning,” said Arciero.
State Rep. Jim Arciero, 978-973-4491
Superintendent Everett Olsen, 978-815-5711, Westford Public Schools
Chief of Police Thomas McEnaney, 978-490-9033, Westford Police Department
UPDATE – A quote by Westford Police Chief Thomas McEnaney was added after it was confirmed by him.