Aug. 6—The Riverside Local School District has added a second school resource officer and created two full-time school security officer positions ahead of the 2022-23 school year.
The SROs are provided as part of an agreement between the school district and the Lake County Sheriff's Office, noted Gary Platko, the district's treasurer and chief financial officer. He said that the addition of a second SRO will provide "more coverage among the district."
"If they get one officer that's tied up with something, there's another one available for them to address any issues that come about," he added.
According to Jeff Sherwood, the chief deputy at the Sheriff's Office, SROs address possible criminal acts in schools. They also have the role of mentoring students, building trusting relationships between students and the Sheriff's Office and working with students who have behavioral challenges.
"The program has been very successful," he said. "Over the years, the officers have built relationships with the kids. We've been able to, I think, intercept some issues early on. Nothing to the point where, you know, anyone's life was in danger, but I think they've been really good at intervening and, say, maybe, something would occur where maybe there could be assaults or fights that could happen."
Platko explained that, under a contract with the Sheriff's Office, the district will pay the majority of the resource officers' salaries. The remainder of the salaries will be paid by the Sheriff's Office, where the SROs will continue to work over summer breaks.
"We've always really enjoyed a great relationship with Riverside and the Riverside community," Sherwood said. "A lot of our SROs that worked over there actually were students in the school system at one time."
Unlike the SROs, Platko said that the two school security officers will be full-time district employees, deputized and provided with training, uniforms and equipment by the Sheriff's Office. One will be stationed at the entrance to Riverside Campus, while the other will be stationed at the entrance to LaMuth Middle School.
Sherwood explained that SSOs guard building entrances, issue passes and help direct visitors to the correct location. He added that they would be first responders in the event of an active shooter situation.
The district has previously hired SSOs as independent contractors but has faced high turnover and difficulty recruiting in recent years. Platko said that the district hopes the increased compensation and benefits packages will make the positions more attractive.