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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Officer Liza Thomas is a school resource officer at Ward Education Center, an alternative FWCS school.

Officers turning to middle schools

Resources shifting from upper grades in new pilot project

– Fort Wayne’s police chief announced this week there’s a plan afoot to shift the presence of police officers in city high schools to middle schools.

But officials at Fort Wayne Community Schools say there is only a pilot program underway – involving only one school – that’s designed to test such a move.

In addressing the City Council this week, Chief Garry Hamilton said that by next year Fort Wayne police officers who are school resource officers, or SROs, will move to the middle schools.

“We’re seeing that problems are now in the middle schools,” Hamilton said. “We need to address it at an early age.”

Officials at FWCS said a pilot program is beginning that will take one of the resource officers from one high school to a middle school to check its effectiveness.

School officials did not say which middle school would be receiving a school resource officer or which high school would be losing one.

“We want to see how it goes,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. “It doesn’t mean there isn’t security at the high school level. We have other security officers,” she added.

School resource officers have been a fixture at high schools in the city and county for years.

They not only provide a law enforcement presence but are also specially trained to provide guidance for students on certain issues.

These officers can also provide schools with additional educational resource material, according to the FWCS website.

The goal of the pilot is to see whether those police officers could better assist students at the middle school level on a number of issues, including education.

“The job is to be a resource, to teach students,” Stockman said. “At the high school level, for a multitude of reasons, they don’t have much time to work on that.”

The Allen County Sheriff’s Department also provides school resource officers for high schools in Southwest Allen County Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools and East Allen County Schools districts.

Sheriff Ken Fries said there’s no plan to move county resource officers out of the high schools into the middle schools there.

“They’re available for all the schools,” Fries said. “Most of the issues are in the high schools, but if there is an issue at a middle school, they can be called over there.”

Because the officers have been so entrenched in city high schools, the pilot program to move one to a middle school was launched to test the waters on how things would go, Stockman said.

“We need to make sure high schools are comfortable with such a transition,” she said.

“They’ll still have the resources they need.”

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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