Forestville hires resource officer

Safer schools

OBSERVER Photo by Damian Sebouhian Newly appointed school resource officer, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Grant shakes hands with Forestville School Board member Sylvester Cleary.

FORESTVILLE — Forestville is the latest district to secure a school resource officer (SRO) as the board of education approved a resolution during last week’s meeting, resulting in Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy Richard Grant being assigned to the position.

Superintendent Renee Garrett said that having a new SRO “is a preventative, added layer of protection for the Forestville school community, in response to recent events at schools across the country.

Although Garrett didn’t specify what she meant by “recent events”, since the February 14 school shooting that occurred in a Florida high school and resulted in 17 deaths, school districts around western New York have been pressured to do what they can to make their campuses safer.

Less than a week prior to that deadly shooting in Florida, on Friday, February 9, Forestville Elementary and High School buildings went into lockout mode due to an individual allegedly making threats against the school the evening before.

The district was criticized by several parents for the handling of the lockout during last week’s meeting. The overall sentiment expressed by parents was that they should have been informed of the threats that Thursday evening instead of the next morning as their children were on their way to school.

“This is a world where school shootings happen (regularly) in our country,” said Lindsey Ellis, mother of two Forestville students. “If you couldn’t close the school…at least give me the decision to send my child or not.”

The district had released a statement to parents and posted it on the district website that Friday morning, which read “Last night, the Superintendent received a phone call from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office. The Deputy informed the Superintendent that an individual made threats against the school.” The statement went on to explain the lockout situation and that “police are assisting and will remain present.”

Although parents like Ellis voiced their complaints during the meeting, all seemed unanimous in their support of the district acquiring deputy Grant as its new SRO.

Grant and Sheriff Joseph Gerace were present at the meeting.

“(Grant) is a local guy, so he knows the territory, he knows a lot about the community,” Gerace told the board. “I think it’s going to be a perfect fit.”

According to the agreement between Forestville and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s office, the SRO will have a plethora of duties, not all limited to protection.

The SRO’s responsibilities include:

¯ Serving as a liaison between students, law enforcement and the community.

¯ Serving as an educator, law enforcer and counselor.

¯ Help maintain an atmosphere where students, teachers and staff feel safe.

¯ Attending meetings on a regular and/or requested basis.

¯ Attending sporting events and extra-curricular activities when requested.

¯ Assisting in investigating suspected criminal activity occurring on district property.

¯ Acting as an educator with classroom teachers and other district personnel in answering questions on a variety of topics such as the law, drugs, safety, crime prevention, violence prevention, etc.

Furthermore, according to the agreement, “The SRO shall not act as a school disciplinarian. However, if the principal believes an incident is a violation of the law, the principal may contact the SRO and the SRO shall then determine whether law enforcement action is appropriate, consistent with a police officer’s duty.”

Grant began his SRO duties on March 9.