Do school resource officers (SROs) keep your kids safe? It's a debate at JCPS, and some think the district would be better off spending its money on something else.
At Marion C. Moore School, the SRO is known as Officer Grider.
"I play a role as an educator and a mentor," Roberto Grider said. "Some teaching, some coaching."
The school resource officer might wear an LMPD uniform, but to these students, he's more than a cop.
"A lot of kids here don't have a father in their life, and I try to play that role as well," Grider said.
"He's an essential part of the team here," Principal Rob Fulk said.
Fulk said Grider builds positive relationships with students but also keeps the building safe when a student breaks the law.
"Being able to respond to it immediately really enhances the safety of the building and enhances the safety and well-being of the students and staff," Fulk said.
Last school year, SROs district-wide charged 400 people with nearly 700 offenses, including 34 cases of weapons on school property.
"People who should be handling the weapons are law enforcement people, not teachers and administrators," said JCPS board member Linda Duncan. "You easily see the need for their presence in the building."
Board member Chris Kolb said the district should instead focus on hiring more mental health counselors.
"It does give a sense of security, but unfortunately, it's a false sense of security," board member Chris Kolb said. "We're spending a lot of money on this, and there is no research that shows that SROs actually keep schools safe."
But principals like Fulk said schools need both.
"I don't understand the dichotomy of making them either/or," Fulk said. "(SROs and mental health counselors) both serve a purpose, and they both serve a positive purpose for our students."
Grider used to patrol the streets. He knows what some of these kids go home to. He thinks he makes the biggest difference at school.
"I feel like I can save someone, or one child, to be successful," Grider said.
The district just approved a $320,000 contract for eight SROs from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. JCPS also has contracts with LMPD and other police agencies.
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