Wilton Select Board discusses school resource officer

Wilton Town Hall.



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-28-2024 10:06 AM

Modified: 03-01-2024 8:03 AM

The Wilton Select Board is hoping to talk to the Milford School District resource officer and SRO-trained officers in Wilton and Lyndeborough for information about the role and duties of a school resource officer.

Board members discussed the potential for hiring a school resource officer the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District during their meeting Monday. Hiring an SRO for the school district would require the approval of the Select Board because it would mean adding a new role within the Wilton Police Department, potentially impacting the town’s budget. Selectman D.J. Garcia noted, however, that the School Board had expressed interest in potentially funding the role through the school budget, at least part-time.

Selectman Kermit Williams expressed some skepticism that an SRO was necessary in such a small district.

“They don’t have a police officer at the school now, but the school seems to be able to function,” he said.

Before coming to any conclusions, Williams said he wanted to see more concrete information on the specific, day-to-day duties of a school resource officer – specifically if there were any gaps in the school’s functions that could only be filled by a police officer.

Garcia and Wilton Police Chief Eric Olesen had previously attended a meeting of the WLC strategic planning committee to discuss the issue. The discussion, Garcia said, “had a lot more to do with the way that an officer would benefit the school community. It wasn’t necessarily what specific disciplinary actions they might do, or specific hearings they might go to. It was more about the way that the person could integrate into the community and have residual benefits beyond what’s required in a situational event.”

The strategic planning committee felt that the presence of an SRO would help the students feel more comfortable around police officers, and give them a trustworthy individual to go to for help if they needed it.

“That seems pretty abstract,” Williams said, adding that he would want to see a list of more-specific responsibilities before authorizing the creation of a new salaried position within the Police Department. He asked Olesen about the issue of truancy, and how the issue is currently handled without an SRO present.

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Olesen confirmed that the department sends officers to the WLC schools to meet with students, parents and faculty involved in truancy incidents and to pick up truant students when they don’t show up to school.

Officers also visit the school for expulsion hearings and are present in more-urgent cases when student safety is a concern. In these types of cases, “you’re taking an officer off-line and bringing them into the school,” Olesen said. “If you had an SRO, the SRO could go in and handle that, do all the documentation, reporting, everything that needs to be done.”

Olesen said he would provide Select Board members with a list of previous times officers have been sent to the school to give them a better idea of some of the things an SRO would be covering.

When the board opened the discussion to the public, Wilton resident and 2024 Select Board candidate Tom Schultz noted that there had been attempts to establish an SRO starting as far back as 2004, but the general consensus was it was unnecessary for a small, rural school district.

“No one should have any illusions that because you live in a rural, small community, that you cannot experience what happens every day in this country,” he said, referring to school shootings. “We have to anticipate the worst-case scenarios. Let’s not wait until we’re in that scenario.”

Discussion about hiring a school resource officer will continue at the upcoming March 18 Select Board meeting, at 6 p.m. in the Wilton Town Hall courtroom.