News

Wahpeton school wants police officer, looks for funding

Posted September 15

— Officials with Wahpeton Public Schools would like the district to have a police officer on call to help handle student safety, encourage healthy behavior and educate students about the dangers of drugs and tobacco. But finding the money to pay for the position is a problem.

Wahpeton High School principal Ned Clooten said he has seen more students abusing tobacco and marijuana and believes the officer could help deal with the problems, the Wahpeton Daily News (http://bit.ly/2caXukD ) reported. Wahpeton's 2017 budget does not include money for the officer, but the district is still searching for cost-sharing options to pay for the salary.

"Tobacco use is most common," he said, opening a drawer to reveal a number of traditional and e-cigarettes. "Marijuana is second. And then there are the things we don't (directly) see, like behavior from prescription medication."

Clooten currently has to search lockers and backpacks, and when he has to pat down a student for suspected drug activity, a second school official has to be present. The person Clooten has on call is the school counselor, who then has to interrupt her regular activities to assist in the process.

The newspaper reported funding for the resource officer's salary is an issue because the city is facing budget constraints. Superintendent Rick Jacobson said the timing "is not good right now," but the district is keeping the issue as "discussion item and see what our possibilities are."

Jacobson added that an officer could also help younger students, not just high schoolers.

"The way we're set up now, with three buildings within walking distance of each other, we could have a presence," he said. "A lot of kids who may have negative perceptions of the police, when they interact with them on school time, we can take a negative situation and see it turn into a positive."

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