The Chester County school board has approved an agreement for sheriff’s deputies to act as resource officers in its three high schools, but there could be some sticking points with the county.
Superintendent Angela Bain said the school board unanimously approved an agreement Monday and sent it to the County Council.
County Supervisor Shane Stuart said the County Council tabled the agreement Monday because it was meeting at the same time as the school board. He said the council may meet again next week to talk about the matter.
Sheriff Alex Underwood said Wednesday that several of the points in the agreement approved by the school board were new to him.
“We need to come back to the table and see what is going on,” Underwood said. “These are new issues that came up, I guess at the meeting. We hope to get this resolved.”
The talks have been underway for months, Underwood said.
Bain said the agreement approved by the school board calls for school resource officers to be employed by the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and for the county and school district to split the cost of the officers’ salaries.
However, Bain said there are several other points in the agreement approved by the board that school principals have requested, mostly concerning communication.
One of those points is that the sheriff “discuss the assignment of SROs with each principal and the superintendent” to ensure the officer is a good fit for the school, Bain said.
She said principals have told her “that one of the biggest issues was that the district did not have any input on which SROs went into the schools, and they wanted that.”
Bain said the school district “has never disputed the fact that SROs are employees of the sheriff’s office. The disputed provision concerns the extent to which the district would be informed of and consulted with on the assignment of the SROs. We just want to have input.”
Bain said there are two other issues important to the school district.
She said the school district has asked that the sheriff or his designee meet with the school district security chief and its private security company, Defender Security, at the beginning of each school term to talk about security issues.
“We think those discussions are critical to maintain a secure environment for our students,” she said.
A second point, Bain said, is the school district is asking to be informed by the sheriff about the resolution of any complaints involving a school resource officer so the principal can share accurate information with parents.
Underwood said he has concerns about being required to discuss the resolution of a personnel issue. He said those issues are confidential.
“You can’t discuss personnel issues with an outside agency,” Underwood said. “If anybody has an issue with a sheriff’s deputy, they need to talk to the sheriff.”
Stuart said Wednesday he was not familiar with new provisions in the agreement approved by the school board. However, Stuart said, “the county wants whatever the sheriff wants. We are on the same page.”
The school district dropped the use of sheriff’s deputies as school resource officers in 2015, opting for private security guards through Defender Security on each county campus. The district also hired a security director.
However, the decision to remove the sheriff’s deputies was revisited earlier this year, after the departure of former Superintendent Agnes Slayman, who resigned under pressure last year after charges that she created a hostile work environment.
Bain, named superintendent earlier this year, restarted the talks to bring deputies back into the schools, giving the school district a mix of uniformed deputies and private security guards.
The agreement between the school district and county would place a sheriff’s deputy as a resource officer at each of the county’s three high schools: Chester, Lewisville and Great Falls.
Bain said private security officers from Defender Security have been providing security at all campuses except Great Falls High School, where an officer from the Great Falls Police Department works. Bain said she hopes Defender Security can provide an officer at Great Falls High next week.
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077