By Lauren Wasserman ’19
Westport Public Schools has been discussing the possibility of changing the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program from being run by the Westport Police Department , to being run by a specified school resource officer. D.A.R.E is a program, primarily in the elementary schools, that teaches students about drugs and resistance to them. By switching to a school resource officer, Westport hopes to see improved outcomes and enhance the program in building more personalized relationships amongst officer and student.
A school resource officer is someone who is responsible for providing security in the United States school system. This officer would be an officer from the Westport Police Department, as the schools would still like to utilize those officers. The change would have no effect on the current partnership between The Westport Public School system and Westport Police Department–especially considering it would still root from the local police department.
“The partnership is really great right now between the police department and the schools,” Lieutenant Jillian Cabana of the Westport Police Department said, “that’s not going to change.”
The whole purpose of this potential change is in benefitting the students, according to Superintendent Colleen Palmer. “Schools that have partnered with their local police departments to establish programs for school resource officers have found positive outcomes,” Palmer stated.
The police department appears to also be on board with the plan. “The only thing that would probably change a little bit would be that an SRO (school resource officer) would be in schools more frequently,” Cabana said.
On the contrary to popular belief, the switch has nothing to do with the town’s recent budget cuts and would not have an impact on Westport schools’ spending. The change is primarily aimed to create a more positive impact and keep students safer and more resistant.
Palmer believes school resource officers are often the most effective choice for the D.A.R.E program, and predicts Westport would be no different than these other schools.
“I have worked with SROs (school resource officers) for the past 20 years as both a high school principal and superintendent,” Palmer said, “and endorse the idea of having a School Resource Officer for our District.”