It’s a district nestled in the middle of three communities, which has faced scrutiny with rising violence.
“We see what you are going through. I graduated from this school, I was in your shoes. I get it so how do we do better,” said Cameron Culliver, who’s the Sto-Rox School Board president.
It’s a question Sto-Rox school leaders believe they’ve finally found the answer to after losing at least two students to gun violence in the last year.
“There was no consistency you had some kids afraid to come to school and some teachers afraid but no consistency and we want to provide something in each building a constant, a deterrence,” Culliver said.
The district is creating the first Sto-Rox school police force, comprising three armed officers or security specialists, and supplemented with seven additional security guards.
“It’s more than just breaking up fights and arguments. There is a mental aspect as well. Some of my biggest mentors was security officers in school or local police in the community because I got to see the other side of the badge,” Culliver said.
It’s part of the district’s recovery plan to help with declining enrollment. From 2015 to 2022, students who left the district for charter schools went from 19% to nearly 34%, creating a financial challenge for the school.
“The district believes, the superintendent believes and the board believes by creating a better school environment both security-wise and educationally will attract some of those families back,” said District Solicitor Ira Weiss.
The school hopes parents and students remain optimistic about the changes.
“It’s not a prison you are coming to, I don’t want people to think they are coming into a prison. That’s not what we are going to give off, but things will look and feel different. Things will look safe because they will be safe,” Culliver said.
This won’t just be a force on duty during school hours. You’ll see them at after-school activities and sporting events. The officers they’ve already hired are assessing the buildings to see what other additional security elements may be needed.
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