New agreement means more sheriff’s deputies for Chester County schools

More officers will be in Chester County schools after the district, county and sheriff’s office reached an agreement Monday.

Chester County School District leaders signed an agreement with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and the county to increase the number of school resource officers in the district, said Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey.

“This provides a certified law enforcement officer for these campuses that will serve as a deterrent for criminal activity that may or may not could come from the outside,” Dorsey said. “It serves as a deterrent for criminal activity by people who are on campus. But most importantly, it allows for these officers to engage in the life and well-being of these students.”

Certified officers from the sheriff’s department will serve five schools -- Chester High School, Lewisville High School, Great Falls Middle and High School, Chester Middle, and Lewisville Middle. There were three school resource officers before the agreement, Dorsey said.

“This is an effort to improve our security footprint at these campuses,” Dorsey said. “This is a continuation of building upon there being certified police officers in these schools.”

Private security officers will still be used to serve schools where needed, Dorsey said.

“Working hand in hand with the sheriff’s office benefits our community, our children and the safety of those children,” said Chester County School District Superintendent Angela Bain. “We have a blended system and it’s working really well.”

Getting deputies into Chester County schools has been an ongoing struggle. In 2015, the district dropped deputies as resource officers in favor of private guards, The Herald previously reported. That decision was met with criticism from parents and then-sheriff Alex Underwood.

In 2016, the district and county placed school resource officers in Chester County’s three high schools, The Herald reported then.

The new agreement adds sheriff’s office deputies as resource officers at two middle schools, Dorsey said.

Dorsey said one of his first goals after being sworn in as sheriff in May was to get officers in schools.

Dorsey was named sheriff soon after Underwood was indicted by federal prosecutors. Underwood was suspended from office.

“I made this a priority from day one,” Dorsey said. “I couldn’t do anything about the past, but I wanted to make sure I was doing all I could to bring the parties together where we could put some officers in the schools.”

Under the agreement, effective until June 30, 2021, the county and the school district will each pay $127,338 a year to cover salaries and benefits for five officers. The agreement automatically renews on July 1, 2021, for one year.

The sheriff’s office will hire and supervise the school resource officers, according to the agreement. The officers’ first point of contact is the school’s principal.

Dorsey said school resource officers in Chester County are expected to form relationships with the students.

“These are good officers and I have high expectations for them,” he said.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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