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Letter: Ridgefield Prevention Council Supports School Resource Officers

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. - The following is a letter from the Ridgefield Prevention Council to the Board of Fiance regarding the hiring of additional School Resource Officers in the budget.

Dear Board of Finance,

The Ridgefield Prevention Council supports a safe and healthy environment for all Ridgefield families and as such, board members have kept atop the latest town discourse on the topic of increased security for our schools. Let us begin by saying we are very much aware of the challenges the town faces in staffing its police force in support of the changing landscape of law enforcement. Over the past few years, we have also seen a growing need to expand the presence of security within our schools, which was only compounded by the horrific event last December in Newtown.

We, the RPC, view this  as an opportunity for the school system and police department to work more fluidly together to reach a common goal … that being keeping our children safe and, in turn, our families and loved ones in our town of Ridgefield.

We firmly believe, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and the safety and well being of our children extends far beyond having a police officer as security at the front door. We believe this police officer has the potential to serve several functions, especially in building a long-lasting respect and feeling of community among our youth.

The latest Search Institute Survey (April 2011) of our teenagers revealed that our Ridgefield youth do not feel valued within the community nor do they feel that they have adult role models outside of their family circle. If trained and integrated accordingly into the middle school’s campus, a police officer can easily serve these functions at what is a critical time of growth and development for these students.

We also believe that a frequent presence of these officers at the elementary level will increase the comfort level of the student population in these role models and, ultimately increase the likelihood they would seek out their guidance later in life. Otherwise known as a School Resource Officer, these officers can develop a strong rapport and serve in a supportive role to all students, especially our self proclaimed undervalued teens. He/she may also begin to identify those youth who need additional support and guidance.

An extra set of eyes and ears on campus outside of faculty goes a long way in helping to intervene when a child begins to experience early symptoms of mental health disease, especially depression and signs of suicidal behavior. We have noted in our town an increased risk in these areas. Also, an SRO can identify the risks of behavior and activities associated with substance abuse and appropriately intervene in preventing illegal activity that puts all of our kids at risk.

We, the RPC, respectfully request that you do not ask the BOE to decide between programs to educate our children and the measures needed to adequately secure the schools. Please reject the Board of Selectman’s nonbinding resolution to cut the BOE budget by $200,000. We see this as a small price to pay to ensure we send the message to our youth that our community does actually care for them. Let’s start a trend to reverse the Search Institute’s Survey with this small measure today.

Respectfully, The Ridgefield Prevention Council

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