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State officials debate resource officers, other measures to keep schools safe

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BATON ROUGE - There are more than 1,300 public schools in Louisiana, and a state commission met Wednesday to discuss keeping them safe and keeping that a top priority.

The commission's goal is to have both law enforcement and educators collaborate on the best practices for school safety following incidents in other states.

“There is a sense of urgency here to do what we can now and then set the stage for doing even more later,” said Governor John Bel Edwards, who made the opening remarks for the meeting.

As they were meeting, police in Gonzales were dealing with a bomb threat at East Ascension High School. But, after a thorough search of the campus, officials gave the all-clear about an hour later.

According to Lieutenant Steven Nethken of Gonzales police, the open lines of communication and the constant communication between school officials and law enforcement was key to clearing the school and to preventing future incidents.

“The working relationships and the continuing conversations that we have with all our schools make that a direct telephone call to one of the administrators to us which speeds up the process,” Nethkan said.

Although a school resource officer was present at East Ascension, not every school in Louisiana can say the same. And the money must be there to pay for them.

“In some cases, the school systems pay 100% of the cost of the SRO. In other cases, law enforcement agencies will pay 100% of the cost. In some cases, they split the cost according to some agreed upon allocation of that,” said Governor Edwards

School districts statewide say talking about school resource officers is one thing, but actually paying for one is not as feasible.

“Feasible? I think there's some things that we gotta do so that financially we can cover all that,” said Rick Wentzel, superintendent of Livingston Parish Public Schools. “There's gonna be some resources that we're gonna have to pursue."

Livingston parish is considering a tax proposal to pay for better security, but the details are still up in the air.

The commission has not yet announced when they will meet again.


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