BOARDMAN - Morrow County school officials are considering creating a permanent police liaison in the countywide district, although administrators say deadlines for government grants have passed for this year, so the idea is probably at least a year away.
The idea of an officer assigned exclusively to the schools has been tossed around in the past, said Morrow County School Superintendent Mark Burrows, but the idea gained momentum after it was discussed at an administrative meeting at the Port of Morrow Friday.
A police liaison would be responsible for dealing with any illegal activity that may be going on in school as well as serve as a public safety educator at all of the schools in the district. Both Pendleton and Hermiston school districts have a youth services officer assigned to the schools.
In Morrow County, the position would involve all the schools in the district, which includes Heppner, Boardman and Irrigon. It would not include the 1-year-old Ione School District.
Burrows said he wants to emphasize that having a police officer in the schools does not mean there are large issues with crime at school.
While "obviously there are signs of gang activity," Burrows said the administration and staff have done a great job of keeping gang influences and problems out of the schools so far.
Riverside High School Principal Dirk Dirksen said Friday that the district would have to consider what kind of message having a police officer at school would send to the community.
"It's an image," Dirksen said. "Is it an image we want?"
But Dirksen added that he would appreciate having someone around to keep an eye on things during the day.
Other administrators in the district said they thought having a police officer on staff would help prevent crime, especially at the minor grade levels.
Thad Killingbeck, assistant principal at Sam Boardman Elementary, said having an officer at the elementary schools could ease the image of the "big, scary guys who are out to catch you" and create a more positive image of law enforcement.
Government grant application deadlines for hiring a police liaison have already passed for the 2004-2005 school year. At any rate, Burrows said there still needed to be a lot of discussion before any decision is made.
"This is something we would explore with the community," Burrows said. "It's just an idea at this time."
While no decision can be made in the matter until it is taken before the School Board, at least one school board member at Friday's meeting, Ken Matlack - a retired law enforcement officer himself- said he was in favor of the idea.