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Guest Opinion

We support school resource officer-like programs in lower grades

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It was front page news in the Bucks County Herald in early July that another Central Bucks teacher was charged with corruption of a minor. The former CB South and West teacher had electronically communicated in a sexual manner with the minor.

While the Bucks D.A.’s office uncovered nothing in its initial investigation, CB Superintendent Lucabaugh persisted and perverse details emerged. The same week, a Pennridge Football assistant coach was arrested as part of an underage sex trafficking investigation.

Within a week, a 14-year-old girl narrowly escaped abduction at a local mall.

As parents in Central Bucks, it feels as though there is a den of danger surrounding our children, with all of this news close on the heels of the sentencing of CB West choir teacher of Joseph Ohrt for indecent assault and corruption of minors.

There has never been a better time for Central Bucks to partner with local organizations to inoculate our children against sexual predation. NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance), already contracted for a number of programs in our Central Bucks and other area schools, would be an excellent partner to provide such prevention. Aside from programs that can be implemented in the schools, voluntary evening sessions involving parents would go a long way to not only educating parents on ways to protect their children from grooming but would also foster communication and create trust.

There are other ways to protect and help our students.

School Resource Officers have been utilized around the country, especially in secondary schools. Officer Robert Bell, through a partnership with Warrington Township and CBSD, has served as an SRO at CB South since 2014, returning in September 2022 after a hiatus due to the pandemic.

It’s hard to argue with the positive results of Officer Bell’s presence. In 2021 (while Officer Bell was on hiatus) there were 262 incidents which dropped to 144 incidents after his return in 2022. Comparatively at CB West (Covered by Central Bucks Regional Police with no SRO), there were 192 incidents in 2021 increasing to 201 incidents in 2022.

“I hope that my presence at Central Bucks South provides peace of mind and support to the administration, staff and students,” said Officer Bell. “Being a School Resource Officer enables me to be both a counselor and a mentor to my students, offering guidance and advice as they encounter challenges.”

The role of SROs in building relationships, de-escalating mental health issues, and mentoring cannot be over emphasized. SROs help students share uncomfortable situations in which they may be unsure how to proceed. Fostering cooperation and problem solving among students, and deterring crimes are additional positives from SRO programs.

In fact, while there has been a post-lockdown spike in crime in general in Bucks County, we’ve had problems in our schools before the pandemic.

In 2019, a fire suspected to be arson caused $1.3 million in damage to a Cold Spring Elementary School classroom.

Emergency responders were called to Lenape Middle School in 2019, when a student was in crisis.

In these and other situations, an SRO would have been a much-needed resource to prevent, and handle these situations and their aftermath.

We would support further expansion of SRO-like programs to lower grades. Let’s work together to build protection for our kids and staff in Central Bucks.

Aarati Martino is running for Central Bucks School Board in Region 6. Steve Mass is running for Central Bucks School Board in Region 1.


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