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Bossier schools to vote on adding more officers on campuses

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Deputy Josh Cagle speaks with a student at Bossier High School. (Courtesy of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office)

The Bossier Parish School Board could be adding more School Resource Officers pending a vote by the full board tomorrow night.

The audit and security committee passed a unanimous recommendation to add five more officers to the existing fleet of SROs. While the additional SROs will be primarily helpful at high schools where there are more students and the campuses are more spread out, it will also give Bossier Schools the latitude to use the resource officers where needed.

Superintendent Scott Smith said this action would show an unprecedented amount of protection within the district.

“Bossier will not only lead the state, but lead the nation with this,” Smith said via phone following Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Sheriff Julian Whittington has also committed to assigning a full-time deputy to Bossier Schools next year, at the expense of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, to assist with student transports as needed for mental health commitments and to juvenile facilities. This will enable SROs to remain on campus throughout the school day and not leave it unattended.

Additional SROs was one of three items up for discussion Tuesday afternoon. The committee also discussed an early warning system for at-risk students through Illuminate, which the district already utilizes.

“We’d be utilizing a point system for students who are experiencing, for example, high absenteeism, grades going way down, maybe the subject of a lot of bullying and things of that nature,” Smith explained. 
Smith went on to say the information would be gathered electronically and uploaded into a system that looks for risk factors. 
“It would be able to red flag students to administrators and/or counselors, who would then be able to intervene and help decide where to go to next,” he added.

That directly relates to the third item on the committee’s agenda. Smith said the committee approved a memorandum of understanding with two outside agencies (Volunteers of America and Rehab Services of Louisiana) to provide treatment for at-risk students.

“They can provide more in-depth services and treatment that the school board may not be able to provide,” Smith said. “This would not cost the school system anything. These vendors would bill Medicaid or private insurance companies with parental permission, of course. For those who don’t have insurance, they can be referred to agencies who would be able to provide services.”

If all three items are approved by the full board Thursday, Smith said it would be “the greatest safety net” for the school system and a potential model for the state and nation to follow.

“With the incident in Parkland [Florida], we know how many cracks that student fell through,” Smith said. “These things have to be taken seriously and we just can’t let this type of thing go. Our school board is very proactive and the committee took a stand tonight to ensure we have the best policies, procedures and personnel in place to be able to protect our students.”

All three recommendations will go before the full board tomorrow night for a vote. That meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Bossier Instructional Center, 2719 Airline Dr. in Bossier City.