The Libby levy vote Part three: Prevention vs. reaction

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Part one: A closer look at the school resource officer question

Part two: Mentoring and student safety

Public officials advocating for a school resource officer say the officer would have an important role not just intervening against prohibited substances, but preventing the use of those substances to begin with.

Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel said a resource officer would have the authority to act if needed, but would be focused on prevention.

“Keep in mind, the goal of the SRO isn’t to arrest children,” he said.

Libby Public Schools Superintendent Craig Barringer said a resource officer would build relationships to not just prevent drugs and tobacco from being used at school, but to mentor students away from unhealthy life choices outside of school as well.

Barringer said that the schools’ approach to tobacco and drug prevention is already focused on education and prevention — stopping the problem before it starts.

“If we catch a kid vaping, we will communicate with the parents, let them know what’s going on, and try to educate them on what it’s doing,” he said.

But a law enforcement officer will bring not just another set of eyes, but another set of skills and training to that education, he said. The resource officer wouldn’t just react, but help with things such as developing prevention programs and advising on that area of the curriculum.

“What we do now is reactive,” Kessel said of the department’s response to drug use by minors. “They call us when the decision is made to charge, or if they need additional input.”

“If you get the right person, the impact they would have on some of our most at-risk children is immeasurable,” Barringer said.

And as an officer with the Libby Police as well, the officer will be able to continue that mentoring role where a teacher could not, Kessel said.

Kessel said that resource officers in districts that have them are actively working with the children even outside of the school year.

On June 18, residents in the Libby School District will vote for or against a levy to fund a school resource officer. In the next three issues, The Western News will present a series of articles taking a more in-depth look at what that means.

Residents with questions are encouraged to reach out to either Craig Barringer at 406-293-811 or barringerc@libbyschools.org, or to Scott Kessel at 406-293-3343 or s.kessel@libbypd.org.

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