(The Center Square) – A Delaware lawmaker wants to carve out more money for schools to hire resource officers amid a spate of school shootings nationwide.
The legislation, filed by state Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford South, would authorize school districts to hire at least one resource officer and provide a majority of the funding for the new hires. School districts would be authorized to hire an additional resource officer if they have more than 1,000 students, under the proposal.
Shupe said most schools have resource officers who can help detect threats and keep students on the right path “by developing close, positive relationships.”
“I believe every school in our state should have that access,” he said in a statement. “This is an investment we need to make.”
Schools wouldn’t be required to hire resource officers under the legislation, if approved, but if they did, would be required to pay for 30% of the expense,” he said. The state would pick up the remaining 70% — which Shupe said is “typical” of how public education positions in Delaware are financed.
Shupe said the plan would cost an estimated $21 million, assuming that all eligible school districts participate. There are 219 public and charter schools in Delaware, according to state education data.
Amid a rash of recent high-profile shootings, schools across the country are once again wrestling with upgrades to security procedures and systems to handle the threat of attacks on their buildings, teachers and students.
Lawmakers in nearly 40 states proposed more than 2,000 bills addressing school safety from 2018 to 2022 in the wake of several deadly school shootings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Shupe stressed that the resource officers are not meant to respond to emergencies, but said law enforcement is a part of the job.
“They partner with school officials to reduce the threat from intruders,” he said. “They are present during school searches, which may turn up weapons and controlled substances, and can provide protection when a student’s emotional state may present a risk to staff or other students.”
Shupe said the state spends over $2.6 billion a year on public schools, accounting for nearly 36 cents of every dollar spent from the state’s General Fund.
“That expenditure needs to be protected by providing a secure and stable learning environment,” he said. “I believe my bill will help accomplish that.”