Neshannock Township School District to Host School Law Enforcement Officer Training

Neshannock Township School District to Host School Law Enforcement Officer Training

A law Gov. Tom Wolf signed on July 2 made training for law enforcement officers who plan to work in schools mandatory. Neshannock Township School District will host the first of these trainings this week.

In lieu of the School Safety and Security Law, which was signed last year, the Neshannock Township School District will be hosting a 40-hour, five-day training session in partnership with the National Association of School Resource Officers to train law enforcement officers to work with children. This training became mandatory in Pennsylvania on July 2, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 621.

This new legislation allows retired federal agents, retired state, municipal or military police officers, and retired sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to become school resource officers.

Association instructor Joseph Korzarian said that it was amazing to see these training sessions be offered so quickly after the legislation was signed. Bob Shaffer, of Shaffer Security, which provides school resource officers for Neshannock Township School District, said he began planning the session about two months ago since school officers only have six months to become certified.

“At one time, police officers who carried weapons needed only Act 235 certification under the Lethal Weapons Training Act,” Shaffer said. “School resource officers now not only need weapons certification, they need to know community policing, and they must be able to deal with children. That is very different from the police work they may be accustomed to, even if they’ve had years of experience as a police officer.”

Korzarian said that this training is now a baseline for all school security personnel, and will ensure they are all trained to work in school settings alongside children. He said that school-based policing is a very unique profession, and one of the fastest-growing areas of law enforcement.

“In addition to knowing law enforcement, we train them to be mentors to the students and to try to prevent students from entering the juvenile justice system,” Kozarian said. “The Department of Justice has called this type of training the Gold Standard. A lot of states have adopted this system for schools.”

According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, their mission is to provide the highest quality of training to school-based law enforcement officers to promote safer schools and safer children.

Matt Heasley, elementary principal and school safety and security coordinator for the Neshannock district for the past 12 years, said that while security is essential, it’s imperative to ensure the school still feels like a school.

“We don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we’re still a school,” Heasley said. “Everyone wants a safer environment, but we have parents who come in on a regular basis for carnivals, egg hunts, and our Halloween parade. We want to be safe but we don’t want to bar parents and grandparents from the school.”

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    July/August 2019

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