HINSDALE, N.H. -- School officials and members of the town's police force are interested in appointing someone as a school resource officer for Hinsdale Middle/High School to protect children and serve as a mentor to them.
Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner said his department has applied for a three-year, $125,000 grant to help develop a school resource officer (RSO) program. He told the Reformer the money, through the U.S. Department of Justice, could be dispersed as the Hinsdale Police Department sees fit over a period of three years.
Faulkner said a school resource officer would serve in multiple roles, including providing protection to students and staff and acting as a confidant to members of the student body who offer advice or a friendly ear. He said the RSO officer would be armed and would patrol both the middle/high school and the elementary school, though focus would be given to the middle/high school.
The police chief said the officer could wear a hard uniform (typical police attire) or a soft uniform (a polo shirt and dress pants).
"The primary reason is to be a mentor and be a face of law enforcement with whom the kids can confide," Faulkner said, adding that students could ask law- or crime-related questions or inquire about what it is like being a police officer.
However, the RSO would monitor hallways and be fully prepared to defend the school and its students and staff during a violent emergency. Faulkner said his department has spent many hours training with the Keene SWAT team.
He cited the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and at Columbine High School and said an RSO would be ready for the worst. He said the grant program has the support of President Barack Obama.
Faulkner said the RSO's salary would depend on who takes the position, though he already is leaning toward Officer Wayne Kassotis, whom he said has served on the board of directors for The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).
Kassotis told the Reformer he served as an RSO at Monadnock Regional High School for eight years and as police chief in Fitzwilliam. He said an RSO can be helpful by providing the law enforcement angle to different areas of curriculum, such as talking about fingerprinting in a science class or discussing the consequences of dangerous habits to students in a driver's education course.
He said a school has prospered from having an RSO in every case he is familiar with.
"I think there's been a lot more general feeling of well-being and help to secure a safe environment that is conducive for learning," he said. "And that is working with administrators, teachers and students within the school community."
Kassotis said an RSO, during the summer, can conduct recreation programs or a police academy to further the influence they have with students and the rapport they have developed with them.
Dr. David Crisafulli, superintendent of the Hinsdale School District, told the Reformer there has been at least one RSO at each school he has worked with in the past and said he is a big supporter of having one in Hinsdale.
"The security factor is one piece," he said, "but it will also contribute to the well-being and development of the kids in school."
Crisafulli said an RSO provides peace of mind to students and parents and can listen to youngsters who may have family problems they need to discuss.
Faulkner said the idea of hiring an RSO has the full support of the Hinsdale School Board and the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen.
Wayne Gallagher, a selectman and former Hinsdale police chief of 11 years, said it would be a great addition to the town.
"I think it's a good idea. I think having a police officer in the school full-time would be a benefit to the school and the community," he said. "It gives students there somebody they know and trust for 180 days a year."
Gallagher now works part-time for Hinsdale, serving as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer, who has also taught driver's education and been a guest speaker.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.