Criticism of a plan to create a police force for Haralson schools caused members of the county school board and system administrators to air some frustration Tuesday.
Board member Mike Benefield defended the Board’s decision, saying that he was hoping the officers would be able to foster respect for law enforcement among students.
“When we first talked about this, one of the keys to me was the positive relationships that they would be able to build with the students,” Benefield said.
In August, the board approved creating a system police department. The system hadn’t been able to get as many school resource officers through the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office as requested. Bell also said it would allow officers to travel to events and games because they would work for the system, not the county.
At their October monthly meeting, the board members heard from John Daniel, director of transportation and safety for the school system, who said that jobs for student resource officers were posted on the school system website this week. There had been several inquiries about the positions, but only one applicant by Tuesday, Daniel said.
Daniel will be attending the Georgia Chiefs Association class, which is required by law, as he will be acting as the chief of the system’s new police department, he said. The class will begin at the end of November. Daniel added that the patrol cars have been ordered and two are ready for pick up.
Superintendent Jerry Bell brought up comments that he had read on social media about the school system’s new police force. There is a lot of misinformation being spread, he said.
“There’s a lot of not-smart people out here in the world who spread false information,” Bell said. “We can’t do anything about that, but come to us and we’ll give [the correct information] to you.”
The school system’s police department has been certified and the officers will have the same authorities as any other police officers in the state, he said. But the system doesn’t necessarily want all of that.
“The main purpose of having a resource officer is to protect students,” Bell said. “We’ve done our due diligence. We’ve done our research. We understand what we’re doing.”
Benefield said the officers would not be harassing students.
“I know that we’re going to get high-quality officers,” Benefield said.
He said he has got grandkids in the system, and while they might need discipline they don’t need to be arrested, Benefield added.
Haralson County Board of Education members spent the first part of their meeting recognizing students and teachers who excelled in Skills USA.
Bell said that there had been a trend in recognizing an increasing number of students and staff who had excelled in the system.
“Each and every month, we’re bringing up more and more students, teachers, teams, whatever. The number over the last over, gosh, five years of state champions, national placers across the board in a multitude of events is just phenomenal; more than we’ve seen ever in out, what, 52 years of existence,” Bell said. That’s just a testament to the people we have in our school district, the people we have in our community, the parents, and obviously most importantly the students and what they do.”
At the meeting, the board recognized Melisa Holdbrooks, coach for Skills USA, Braice King, who won first place in the state and second place nationally for her nail tech skills, Raven Ridley, state vice president for Skills U.S.A, and Kassidy Harmon, the second-year president for Career Technical Instruction.
In other business board members:
• approved with no changes a number of policies including electronic communications, internet use, promotion and retention.
• approved two overnight field trip requests one to the Georgia Thespian Conference in February and one to Great Wolf Lodge for CTI officer training in November.
• entered a closed session to discuss personnel. When they came back into open meeting, they approved a number of unnamed personnel recommendations.