Natchez Adams School District hires armed, security resource officer

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District voted unanimously Tuesday evening to hire a trained, armed security resource officer.

Superintendent Fred Butcher said he and other board members had talked about hiring another SRO officer before a Sept. 8 school fight that ended with 10 students arrested.

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However, he said, that incident spurred the board to make the hire.

“The fight situation helped us make a sound decision,” Butcher said. “We felt the SRO officer present will deter some of the student behavioral infractions we’ve had.”

Students involved in that fight will face a group hearing with the board Thursday, Butcher said. No further details on this hearing or the incident were released.

The SRO is usually a police officer  who goes through additional training which prepares him or her for improving safety in a school area.

“Sometimes you read something in the paper and you think ‘We don’t have any control,’” Butcher said.  “That doesn’t have anything to do with it. Our hands are tied more than the law enforcement officers there.”

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten will recommend someone for the position, Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald said.

“One of the big initiatives of Sheriff Patten is community policing, this is another opportunity to expand that — to make sure our students don’t see law enforcement officers as an antagonist or threat but as people they can go to for things that concern them,” McDonald said. “We hope that will build their repertoire on campus.”

Ray Brown, supervisor of safety and security for NASD, said he has requested an additional officer in the past.

Currently the district has only one other SRO, though the district previously had two officers.

The second position was eliminated, Butcher said, when the number of students in the district dropped.

The SRO will be hired on a seven-month, full-time contract. Butcher said two or three qualified candidates are available that work for the Adams County Sheriff Office.

The SRO would work in conjunction with the current school safety officers, of which 16 are deployed throughout the district.

The school safety officers, the current SRO and whomever is hired to fill the new position will be under the authority of Brown.

Brown said the primary differences between SSO and SRO is the training and equipment each possesses.

“They’re armed; they have cuffs for crowd control,” Brown said. “Some people do feel safe. Some people might not because of things going on in the world and the country. We want them to feel safe.”

School security officers are trained by the Mississippi Department of Education, whereas school resource officers receive that same training as well as law enforcement training.

“School law and street law are different,” Brown said. “In order for officers to come on school property, they are asked for assistance. They are only asked when we cannot handle the situation.”

A situation getting out of control, Brown said, doesn’t happen very often but is more likely at the higher grades than in the lower.

Brown said the district wants to increase community involvement in the school and, while on campus, he wants them to feel safe.

“If (students) see someone they see on a daily basis, they may not want to act out,” Brown said. “That’s why we want community on campus.”

Sometimes, however, what goes on in the community can affect the school negatively.

“What goes on in the community springs over to the school,” Brown said.

When fights or violence exist in the community, Brown said, that tension can come to a head on campus.

“What other place are all the students in the community together besides inside the school?” Brown said. “That’s our biggest challenge. Our schools are open. It’s a challenge to try to apprehend what’s going to happen.”

One reason Brown would like an SRO is because this person would be in direct communication with police officers who work locally and can better gauge the attitude of the community.

“We do what we can to protect (the schools),” Brown said. “I think, district-wide, we’re doing an excellent job.”