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Future of Lebanon school resource officer in question after vote

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 4:46 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2021 at 3:46 PM EST
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - The school resource officer in the Lebanon School District has been on the job since 2006. But now the police officer’s future at the district is uncertain.

Among the decisions for Lebanon voters on Tuesday was whether to do away with the school district’s funded position of an in-school resource officer.

By just a handful of votes, the nonbinding warrant article passed.

Kathy Beckett helped gather the signatures to get the question on the ballot.

“I think it is important to look at how we actually interact with the community and who can best serve the needs of the community,” Beckett said.

The former educator says far too often, students of color and those with disabilities are negatively impacted by a police officer roaming the hallways.

Lebanon police officers disagree.

“The benefits that it has brought the community, the students, the staff, as well as the PD here far outweigh any negatives that we are hearing,” Lebanon Deputy Police Chief Phil Roberts said.

The school resource officer in Lebanon spends most of his time at the middle school but bounces around the district. Officers say discipline is only one aspect of the job. The SRO is also a part-time teacher and mentor.

“Not only between the school district’s staff but also the students at all grade levels,” Roberts said. “We found that the relationships built since 2006 have been a benefit not to not only the PD but the school and the students.”

Relationships that officers say extend beyond graduation.

But others say building new relationships, with perhaps additional counselors in the district, would be money better spent.

“It is not that we discount our police officers but we want to make sure that good research is done so we can make good decisions around how do we best address the well-being of our students,” Beckett said.

In an email, Lebanon’s outgoing school board chair told me the board will consider the community’s vote. However, she added the next step is yet to be determined.

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