Lebanon School Board considers reconfigured resource officer role

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-07-2024 8:00 PM

LEBANON — A new proposed partnership between the Lebanon School District and Police Department would provide a specially trained officer to the schools to assist in safety, educational programs and other support services — but eliminate the daily police presence in a single school building.

The new proposal, known as a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, details the duties of what is now called a “community resource officer,” a police officer who works collaboratively with the schools to provide safety, including through crisis intervention, emergency planning, teaching opportunities and relationship-building with students and families. It provides greater specificity to delineate between the roles of the school district and police than past agreements, according to a breakdown provided by Superintendent Amy Allen in an email.

“Community Resource Officers are not school disciplinarians or administrators and shall not assume this role,” the memorandum states. They “are not formal counselors and will not function as such; however, they are to be used as a resource to assist students, faculty, staff and all persons involved with the school community.”

The School Board on Wednesday will consider the new terms for the services of the resource officer, a role which has inspired an ongoing debate in the school district. Many families, as well as school board members, have voiced concerns about having an armed police officer stationed inside the schools. Some board members also expressed discomfort that the school resource officer is not a school employee.

In November, the School Board voted, 6-2, to discontinue the school resource officer position in the 2024-2025 academic year and to seek a new a different collaborative model with the police department.

Despite removing the position, the board kept $75,000 in funding in next fiscal year’s budget, which starts July 1, in case an alternative program is adopted, Board Chairwoman Lilian Maughan said in a phone interview.

The new proposal makes several changes to the role in attempt to alleviate some of the community concerns. The resource officer will no longer be stationed at Lebanon High School, or in any of the district’s four school buildings.

Instead, the officer would visit each school on a rotating schedule, said Lebanon Police Chief Phil Roberts.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hartford man held without bail following weekend standoff and shelter-in-place advisory
Lebanon employers seek to meet workers’ child care needs
Vermont Supreme Court to hear Tunbridge trails case
Bookstock literary festival grew too big to manage
Woodstock’s first Pride brings community together
Man gets DUI at Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery

The officer’s responsibilities would include co-teaching on health and safety-related topics, school safety planning and staff training, criminal investigations and emergency responses, and hosting community-building activities such as Walk-to-School days or Reading with a Cop.

The resource officer also may accompany the district social worker on visits to student homes.

Miranda Collins, the school district’s social worker, said in November that having an officer who has a rapport with students and families is beneficial during these home visits.

Collins declined to comment on Monday, saying she wanted to first get the administration’s approval to interview.

The officer’s role would not change significantly under the new proposal, Roberts said.

Greg Parthum, who has served as the resource officer for 16 years, already does team teaching and educational presentations and accompanies Collins on home visits.

The resource officer will still carry a firearm, despite concerns expressed by some board members.

“That’s not up for discussion,” Roberts said. “I will never ask a law enforcement officer to go into the line of duty or in the field unarmed. It’s reckless and creates liabilities.”

The proposed agreement requires certified resource officers to complete approved coursework in crisis intervention, adolescent mental health, resource officer guidelines and emergency preparedness. The superintendent may also require the officer to participate in additional training.

The resource officer program would be evaluated annually by the school district, which would also be required to survey staff and families to gather feedback about the safety of the schools and the school climate, according to the agreement.

If a new agreement is reached, the district would cover half the cost of Parthum’s compensation. The district paid a share of $73,700 last year, Roberts said.

Parthum is still currently serving as school resource officer, according to the police department.

The School Board will meet on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Lebanon High School.

Patrick Adrian ma y be reached at padri an@vnews.com or 603-727- 3216.