The SRO topic has been an item of much discussion during previous school board meetings.
During the April 1 meeting, the board decided to continue the SRO program through the end of the school year, which falls on Friday, May 23.
However, a decision was not made regarding the continuation of the officer program in the future.
Johnson expressed his support for the program and implored the board to honor the contract, which they agreed upon in 1999. The contract that the board signed states that they, along with the Polk County Board of Commissioners, would provide the three school resource officer’s salaries until February of 2004.
In recent weeks, the school board has asked attorney Mike York to look into the procedure of pulling out of the contract due to severe cuts in the school district’s budget.
“Times have changed in the world today that we are living in. I remember hearing when they [school board, governmental entities] were considering putting the officers in our schools…at that time, I was really against the fact that the officers would be in our schools, but today I am of the opinion that there is no way that a school is safe if we don’t have an officer in that building.”
Johnson went on to state that he felt Polk County has a growing drug problem and violence in the community and schools are on the rise.
He referred to public information records that he had acquired, stating that there was an average of 35 to 43 calls that the police department responded to at local schools in the past. “These calls range from fist fights all the way to drug involvement, child molestation and all the way to having a hand gun in school, “ Johnson stated.
He also expressed concern over a recent disturbance at Cedartown Middle School were the police had to be called and the bomb threat that took place two weeks ago at Rockmart Middle School.
“How can we even consider taking officers out of our schools when we have such violence going on?” Johnson asked the board.
He added, “Today’s students can not learn in an environment of fear. I talked to several children and I have a teenage son…I’ve talked to students that say ‘yeah, I am kind of scared when I go to school because I don’t know what is going to happen, there’s too much going on.’ We have had a police officer that was told… to stop writing a form 90 [juvenile arrest form], because it made the school look bad.”
Johnson stated that he had called several members of the board to express his concerns over this matter, but as of the present time, had not received any calls back.
“It’s time we keep our end of the deal as a school board. We need more officers. In fact, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends that school should have one officer per 1,000 students. We’re short.”
Chairman Rick Lundy thanked Johnson for his remarks.