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State Rep. James Arciero recently testified on legislation to allow retired state and local police to serve as School Resource Officers on a full time basis, at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education, a bill he filed.
The legislation, House Bill 396: An Act Relative To School Resource Officers, will assist Massachusetts cities and towns to hire former state and local police as school resource officers which will be able to serve in these public safety positions full time. The bill was filed after school safety discussions with Westford Chief of Police Thomas McEnaney and Westford Public Schools Superintendent Everett 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 students, the legislation proposes that the 960-hour work limit on government retirees be exempt in order that retired state and local police can be hired as school resource officers for the entire 180 days of a standard school calendar year.
Such an exemption would all for these SROs to be employed while not being compensated for with 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 offers 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 Olsen.
“As a legislator and father, I know the protection of our children has to be our number one priority,” said Arciero, who last year 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 could assist local communities in providing greater school security.
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 bill strikes a balance between school 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,” concluded Arciero.