School safety to top talk in new year
December 26, 2012
Teton High School principal Frank Mello and assistant principal Brody Birch went classroom to classroom on Friday handing out Christmas cookies to students. Citizen photo/Jeannette Boner
Last Friday as parents and friends filed into Teton High School for the last Christmas play of the day before the start of the holiday break, they were greeted by Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme, two sheriff deputies and Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford along with THS principal Frank Mello, who was in and out of his office, up and down the hallways greeting each person he ran into.
With more than 40 percent of the high school student body absent that day for various reasons including a perceived threat made earlier that week, coupled with the stress of a national shooting that killed 26 students and teachers in New England, law enforcement was asked to be present at the high school as a way of keeping parents and the student body breathing a little easier.
And it was a quiet day at Teton High School with Mello and Assistant Principal Brody Birch going classroom to classroom in the afternoon wishing students and teachers happy holidays with a tray of festive cookies. But the conversation, said Woolstenhulme, will be a top agenda item for the Teton County School Board in the New Year.
“This will be the agenda item,” said Woolstenhulme of the new year with the Teton County School Board. “We want to be prepared. It’s a safe community, but the lesson from Newtown is that it can happen anywhere.”
And with the National Rifle Association announcing that same day that every school in the nation should be supplied with armed guards, Woolstenhulme said that the conversation and focus in the new year will fall squarely on the national conversation.
Woolstenhulme said that providing law enforcement at the schools is not a new idea, and before budget cuts, the school district did employ a school resource officer.
“It’s not unheard of,” said Woolstenhulme of a resource officer. But if the school was to reinstate an officer, a lot of discussion would have to happen and input would be needed from everyone in the district and in the community.
Sheriff Tony Liford said he and his staff would continue to work with the school district to help in any way. He added that he would like to see a school resource officer return to the school district but understands the budgetary constraints.
“It will have to be the opinion of the people,” said Liford as to whether a school resource officer will be refunded in the district. “That’s the most democratic way of doing that.”