A decision by a Northampton County board to remove the school resource police officer from the local middle school is facing heavy criticism from many residents.
A group of Plainfield Twp. residents attended Wednesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting to object to the board’s decision last month to no longer have one of the township’s police officers serve as the middle school resource officer. The middle school, located in the township, is part of the Pen Argyl School District.
The supervisors say the decision was justified because the school district refused to share with the township the cost of having the officer stationed at the school.
Residents opposed to the decision say not having the officer placed at the school puts student safety and security at risk and removes someone who has had a very positive influence on students.
Under the supervisors’ Aug. 23 decision, the officer continues serving with the township police force, but is no longer placed at the middle school. The school resource officer was originally funded with a three-year grant; the municipal government has been paying the entire cost since, according to township officials.
Resident Kristen Harvey questioned the validity of the vote. She said no mention of removing the resource officer from the school was made until an Aug. 23 special meeting. Harvey said she was concerned the Supervisors violated the Sunshine Law governing public meetings. Township legal counsel disagreed, saying the special meeting was properly advertised as required by law.
Harvey and other residents in attendance said they fear not having Officer Bob Long in the school could lead to increased incidents in bullying, drugs and other illegal activities. Residents praised the officer for his influence on students. One former student noted that “Officer Long was a mentor, especially to troubled kids.”
The supervisors said their decision was well thought-out, and that the matter had been discussed for months before the Aug. 23 decision.
“It’s not fair to have Plainfield Township pay the whole bill,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Heard. “There’s no disputing the officer’s value to the school. Personally, I would like to keep him in the school. The decision was based on what’s best for Plainfield taxpayers and what’s fair.”
Several residents argued that since the officer remains on staff, he can at anytime be placed back in the school. “The officer is still here, so it really wouldn’t cost you anymore to have him back at the school,” Harvey said.
Supervisor Jane Mellert encouraged the residents to approach the school board. “The school board should take care of school issues. It’s there responsibility to address,” she said.
To which Harvey responded, “If we were made aware, we would have already went to the school board.”
Supervisor Steve Hurni said the school board was approached by the township to share the cost, but decided it could not justify the expense due to recent teacher layoffs. Hurni also said that the neighboring Bangor School District provides all security officers. “This should be the Pen Argyl district’s responsibility,” he said.