Parent: Bring a resource officer into the schools

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The mother of two daughters who attend school in the Punxsutawney Area School District addressed the board at its committee meeting Wednesday about drug use, bullying and hiring a school district police resource officer.

“The reason I stand before you now is the growing amount of drugs and the safety issue that is on the rise in our school district,” said Georgette Pennington, a concerned parent.

“At this time, I have a child who is being walked by school personnel to her classes (restricted movement) due to being bullied,” Pennington said, adding that her daughter is not receiving an appropriate education because of the commotion in her daily life.

Pennington said she does respect that in the case of bullying, the parents or guardian are supposed to inform the principal, assistant principal or designee.

“Knowing that the policy on bullying is looked at every three years, I feel that is too much time allotted to make appropriate changes and progress that is so desperately needed,” she said.

“According to Policy 236, the programs for effectively training our students and faculty to report bullying is not effective in every incident,” Pennington said. “I feel the district should look into hiring a police resource officer to work at the high school on a regular basis.

“You’re wondering why parents are pulling their kids out of the school district?” she said. “That’s because the policy is not working. If there’s something wrong, you need to make it right.”

Pennington said she also planned to discuss these problems with Punxsutawney Borough Police.

“I don’t want our school district to become the district nobody wants to send their kids to,” she said. “I want it to become something great. We have teachers and staff that care.”

Pennington said the DuBois Area School District hired its first resource officer with grant funding.

“Just seeing an officer in the building will make a difference,” she said.

After the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said he experienced having a resource officer during his tenure as principal at Brookville Junior-Senior High School.

He said he’s uncertain as to whether or not there’s a grant mechanism for such a program, because he didn’t write the grant — Brookville Police Chief Ken Dworek did.

“I do know the resource officer was not there full-time; I think he was there 20 hours per week,” Wolfe said. “He was half-time resource officer and half-time borough police officer.”

Wolfe said the officer, Vince Markle, would help if something occurred when he wasn’t there.

“We had a really great relationship with the police department, and it went very well,” he said. “There was a separate issue that caused it to be disbanded. We didn’t have a problem with the program; it went well.”
He said it was beneficial to the officer because he could build relationships with students.

“The students would tell him about activities that occurred outside of the school,” Wolfe said.

“Since I’ve come to Punxsutawney I believe the district has a great relationship with the the Punxsutawney Borough Police Department, as well,” he said, noting that any time district officials call police for an incident, officers respond right away.

Wolfe said his biggest concern right now would be the financing of such a program.

“Even if we do have half of that salary being paid for with a grant, the budget has been cut so much by Gov. Tom Corbett over the last two years, it would make it difficult to do,” he said. “The money has to come from somewhere.

There was no comment from board members following Pennington’s remarks.