By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The board of education discussed the idea of placing Prevention Resource Officers in Marion County schools during its meeting Monday night.
“The fact is, we have to figure out a way to protect the children,” said Ted Offutt, retired police chief and current director of the Marion County Day Report Center.
He said there have been numerous school shootings around the world since 1995, including the most recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and each of those incidences was different. Communities must figure out how to be proactive and supply security for their schools.
The state’s Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Program, which is under the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services, had 66 officers stationed in 66 schools in 28 counties during the 2011-12 school year. Thirty-three PROs were funded through the Justice Assistance Grant Program and 15 through the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program, and 18 were paid for locally.
Offutt, who was also a substitute teacher, urged people to talk to their congressional representatives about obtaining more money for grant programs that would fund PROs.
He believes that having a trained, veteran police officer in uniform working with a school — like provided through the PRO Program — offers the best chance for protection. The program, which focuses on prevention, mentoring and safety, puts officers on duty in middle and high schools for a minium of 35 to 40 hours a week, and those individuals are also present during extracurricular activities during the year.