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School resource officer grant program moves forward

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

The Ways and Means Committee for the House of Representatives advanced a bill, HB 1982, which would create a grant program to help put one school resource officer in campuses that want them if it becomes law.
(Photo by Jeremy Pittari | Magnolia Tribune)

  • State Rep. Lamar says Mississippi can educate students and spend billions but if the state can’t protect them “it doesn’t do us any good.”

Through a five-year phase-in period, a bill in the Mississippi House of Representatives could provide grant funding through the Department of Public Safety to help school districts secure a trained law enforcement officer at each campus if the legislation becomes law. 

State Representative Trey Lamar authored HB 1982, known as the Mississippi School Resource Officers School Safety, or MS ROSS, Act. The bill would provide a route for school districts and local police departments or sheriff’s departments to jointly apply for grant funding to help offset the cost of employing a trained and certified law enforcement officer at school districts. 

“As long as I sit in this position I do not want to ever be in a position where we’re looking at adding, when we’re talking about school safety, after a tragedy. That is the wrong side of the equation to be on when it comes to this type of thing,” Rep. Lamar said during Tuesday’s House Ways and Means Committee meeting, which he chairs.

A similar bill, HB 194, also authored by Lamar was double referred. It went through the House Education Committee earlier this session but later died in the Appropriations Committee. 

According to HB 1982, the grant program is open to public, charter and private schools in the state. Independent schools that wish to participate would need to be members of the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, be accredited by a state, regional or national organization, and have accreditation from the State Board of Accreditation. The program would pay up to $55,000 and the officer would need to be an official employee of the law enforcement agency, not the school district, the bill states.

Rep. Lamar said police and sheriff’s departments would have to apply in conjunction with a school district through the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to receive the grant funding, which could be provided by a state general obligation bond. The funding would start as a 30 percent grant in the 2024-2025 school year, increasing 10 percent each subsequent year to a cap of 70 percent in the fifth year, or the 2028-2029 school year. 

Lamar made it clear the program is not for “security guards,” but rather certified law enforcement officers. 

“But to actually have a well-trained, well qualified, certified law enforcement officer assigned to that school, that’s what the program is designed to do,” Lamar described. “We can educate kids all day long, we can spend $3 billion on education, but if we can’t protect them, it doesn’t do us any good.”

An amendment was adopted on the floor of the House Wednesday afternoon that restricts the reasons a school resource officer could be pulled from duty on a school campus. The amendment was aimed at ensuring an officer was on the school campus throughout the school day.

The bill was subsequently passed on the House floor by a vote of 120-0. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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