BSSD brings in new police presence


Jaime Yaukey and Kayla Dobyns

Since the 1980’s, Big Spring High School has had a contract with the Newville Police that utilized the department as an outside resource, and more recently, an officer has been contracted to work permanently on school grounds and has been given the title School Resource Officer. As of June 30, BSHS will not be renewing this contract and will instead establish its own police officer.

This decision came as a surprise to many students and parents in the district. Before the new changes were announced, the possibility of having a School Police Officer (SPO), employed solely by the district, never occurred to anyone. According to Richard Fry, superintendent, the new SPO will be brought in to coordinate safety operations throughout the school district. “There was no specific incident that moved the board in this direction,” Fry said, but there is a desire to have more consistency within the position so the position will be better equipped to build relationships with students and staff.” Consistency is something that the School Resource Officer position has never known; from 2014 to the present, there have been three different resource officers: Officer Todd Koser, Officer Jarreau Dodson, and Officer Ron Hoover.

With the creation of an SPO, the district’s future collaboration with the Newville Police Department will be virtually nonexistent. The SPO will have many of the same powers the resource officer had, including certification to carry a weapon on school grounds. As it turns out, the Cumberland County Sheriff will be handling all school events when the contract ends. If arrests need to made, the SPO may make them if they have the power to, or the Pennsylvania State Police will. Police Chief Koser said, “We will no longer have jurisdiction on any school property because none of it is in the actual Borough Of Newville.” In past years, the Newville Police Department has also provided drug dogs during regular searches of the school. If the NPD is no longer active on school grounds, concerned individuals wonder if the district will have enough resources to maintain the same level of safety the police department formerly provided.

Safety concerns are one of the main reasons that many students and parents do not agree with the removal of the SRO. Although some families may be fine with the removal, others are not.  Anna Sweger, senior, says although she’s impartial on the topic, she feels as though there was more safety with a school resource officer around. “We won’t have text a tip and students may do more things because there is no longer a cop at the school,” Sweger said. “Since there will be no one involved with the school who is an active part of the drug searches, there will be less of a feeling of safety.” Many parents took to Facebook to express their dislike of the district’s decision. “This makes me sick! What on earth is the district thinking!! I have 4 children that go to school in the district. Now I don’t feel they will be safe anymore” was just one of the many comments on the post by the Newville Police Department letting the town know that they would no longer be affiliated with Big Spring.

Many parents and students will be comforted to know that the Newville Police Department will still respond to emergencies. Koser said, “We are the closest police department to any of the schools. If there is a dire emergency we will be dispatched by the 911 center and respond no matter the jurisdiction issue. There is nothing more important to us than your safety and a contract negotiation will never affect that.”

The relationship between the Newville Police Department and Big Spring may be severed for the time being, although the past will not be forgotten. Current school resource officer Hoover said that during his time here, he “enjoyed knowing the students and community, and liked earning trust.” Koser, who was the resource officer for the 2014-2015 school year, will forever remember his time at the district. He said, “I truly enjoyed the interaction with the students. The job was a busy one and I wished I had more time for personal interaction while I was there. It makes my day when I walk through Saylor’s or a local fair and school age children all know my name and feel comfortable approaching and interacting with me. That is what the job is all about.”