WALLENPAUPACK - Wallenpaupack School Resource Officer (SRO) program started four and a half years ago in the wake of the mass shooting event at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, in December 2012.
Like many other school districts, Wallenpaupack sought to strengthen their security, amend their emergency action plan and foster a way for the school police presence to be actively involved in school life, education and helping students in their growth.
John Clader, Director of School Security, presented the many successes of the program and goals for the future, to the School Board, December 6th. A retired PA State Police commander, Clader has led the district’s police department from the beginning.
Since that time they have operated with four full-time officers- three SROs and one Director of Security. They also four substitute SROs.
In the first two years of service, school-related criminal incidents dropped 42% and other investigations dropped 33%. Statistics have remained static in the following two years.
As law enforcement officers they issue citations, and in some cases need to contact the PA State Police.
More than being security officers, the SROs serve a teachers and counselors.
They are actively involved in school pride events, concerts, theater productions, safe driving classes, sporting events, book fairs, class trips and extracurricular trips, proms and semi-formal dances, and the 5th grade overnight camping trip.
Here is a sample of the curriculum in which SROs play an active role.
At the North Primary and South Elementary schools, SROs teach safety regarding school buses, Halloween, seat belt use, bicycles, water and playgrounds. They also instruct the Eddie the Eagle Gun Safety Program.
At the North Intermediate and Middle School they provide instruction in student rights (grade 8), bullying and cyber-bullying, Eddie the Eagle program, firearm safety (grades 6- 8) and the school policy on fighting (grades 6-8).
SROs teach high school students about bullying and cyber-bullying, driver education, personal rights and responsibilities and car registration and vehicle safety.
The officers participate in community projects including Rachel’s Challenge and Ryan’s Run hosted by WNEP.
Special programming for staff, in part includes basic self defense, “Damsel in Defense”, trauma preparedness and drug and alcohol awareness.
Each of the SROs receive 40 hours of basic training as well as 24 hours of advanced training through the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASCRO); security assessment training, annual Municipal Police Officer’s Education Training, training in CPR, AED, First Aid, CPI, suicide prevention, drug recognition, cyber-bullying, sexual violence and intimidation, and other topics. They receive 785 days of on the job training.
In the summer of 2016, the NASRO presented the Model Agency Award to Wallenpaupack’s SRO program. The award is given to agencies that exemplify the organization’s concept in training, policies and standards, and demonstrate “creative and innovative approaches to school-based training.”
SRO Mathew McCormack, in the summer of 2017, was presented with the NASRO Exceptional Service Award. This is presented for continuous and sustained service to the school community above and beyond that normally expected of a SRO or school staff member.
SRO McCormack received the award in Washington D.C. He was one of 10 recipients from around the United States in this category.
• Four full-time NASRO Certified SRO Practitioners
• Participation in additional NASRO/SRO training
• Further updates to school district security measures, including additional cameras, traffic safety barriers and communications equipment. Obtaining additional federal and state grants to support the growth of the school district police department and overall safety, is also desired.
Clader said that the accomplishments of the department would not be possible without the support of the public, taxpayers, school staff, administrators and board. He thanked all for their support and said they would continue to strive to earn their respect.
John Spall, Chairman of the School Board, thanked Clader and the SRO staff for their service.