(Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 28 at 12:37 p.m. to reflect comments made by Hays CISD and Wimberley ISD)
By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY – Some local school districts are looking for more school resource officers to ensure campus safety.
An SRO is a specifically trained and properly equipped full-time law enforcement officer assigned by an agency to work in the school using community-oriented policing concepts, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers.
On July 19, the Hays County Commissioners Court discussed the possible addition of more SROs from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office at districts across the county: Hays CISD, Dripping Springs ISD and Wimberley ISD.
San Marcos ISD was not included in the conversation as it partners with the San Marcos Police Department, Judge Ruben Becerra clarified.
There has been a recent increasing demand for SROs leading Hays CISD to ask for three additional officers, WISD for two and DSISD for one, according to Hays County Chief Deputy Mike Davenport.
“That will make 23 total SRO deputy positions,” Davenport told the court.
“We were asking the current deputies to submit their letter of interest in anticipation of adding these six. We [currently]have four people who are interested. If those numbers hold true, we would have to hire from the outside for two of those positions. Once we hire them, there is roughly six months of training they would need to go to before they are ready to be stationed at the schools.”
Davenport added that the number of interested deputies is fluid so it’s possible it could change.
Hays CISD currently has 12 SROs.
“Two [are]at each of our three comprehensive high schools,” said Tim Savoy, chief communications officer at Hays CISD, “and one each at our six middle schools. The Hays High School SROs also cover Live Oak Academy High School and the Johnson HS SROs also cover our Impact Center.”
Wimberley ISD has two SROs currently — they are assigned to Wimberley High School and Danforth Junior High School.
Commissioner Lon Shell said that when a final decision is made, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office needs to be given sufficient notice.
“We do have some vacancies in our sheriff’s office,” Shell said. “I know the sheriff and his staff would like to be given as much notice as they possibly can, as they try to fill any additional positions at our schools. For me, I think that the court can give some direction to those [districts]to let them know that we are working on those additional officers and funding [for them].”
Agreeing with Shell’s point, commissioner Walt Smith said that the court and county staff need to be mindful of the current vacancies in the sheriff’s office.
“We want to maintain the security and safety of our whole community,” Shell explained. “Adding these positions will help that but we have to do it at the price of the rest of our department. I just want to be cognizant of that.”
Both Hays CISD and WISD said they believe having additional SROs will help maintain the safety and security of its campuses.
“WISD believes an SRO on campus can serve an integral role in promoting the overall safety efforts at our schools,” Allen Bruggman, WISD communications director, told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “As a rural district without a municipal police department, an SRO can be a timely response option should the need arise. We believe the best safety approach is multi-layered and is led by a shared responsibility between our staff, students, parents, and law enforcement entities that serve our area.
Savoy agreed with Bruggman’s point, as SROs serve multiple important roles.
“Their presence acts as a possible deterrence against anyone who may wish to commit a crime,” Savoy told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “They develop important relationships with students and staff and are immediately available to investigate threats or concerns. They know the buildings and the students and can often spot things that may be out of the ordinary or concerning in order to prevent things that may escalate. In the event an emergency, such as an active shooter, should occur, the armed SROs can dramatically reduce response times since they are present in the buildings, or very close by.”
No action was taken on July 19 – the item will be brought back to the court in August.
The Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch reached out to DSISD for a comment but none has been given at this time.