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More SROs? CNY schools weigh decision to add armed officers

Leaders of local school districts say decisions on SROs are now being reconsidered after the events in Parkland and other schools in the U.S.

School districts in Central New York are among many across the country evaluating their safety plans in the wake of shootings at schools including Parkland, Florida, earlier this year.

"I have 21,500 kids and I feel responsible for every single one of them and I want to make sure that we ensure the safety of all the kids and the staff," said Syracuse City Schools Superintendent Jaime Alicea.

One safety measure under serious consideration in several districts is the possible addition of school resource officers, something the New York State Sheriffs’ Association endorsed earlier this year.

The number of school resource officers in a given school varies by district. Alicea's district currently has ten armed officers: two at each high school, one at the institute of technology and another at the Johnson Vocational Center. The district also has 65 sentry officers who are not armed.

Contrast that with the Skaneateles School District, which has no school resource officers. The district removed its school resource officer in 2010 when state funding dried up; the Syracuse City School District had to make a similar decision around that time, resulting in the removal of school resource officers in the district's middle schools.

Leaders for both districts say those are decisions they are now reconsidering after the events in Parkland and other schools in the U.S. — though the answer doesn't appear to be clear-cut at this stage.

"The community at this point appears to be fairly split. Our faculty and staff, we surveyed them recently, they're fairly split," said Skaneateles School Superintendent Ken Slentz. "The kids have stronger opinions, quite frankly. They want that sense of safety."

Here's what officials said is clear: schools are living in a new era with new challenges which will need everyone — from SRO's to staff, to students and their parents — chipping in to keep schools safe.

Thursday night on the NBC3 News at 11, we take a closer look at the role of school resource officers and the consideration being given to adding them in local districts. One week later on May 3rd we'll host a Town Hall at the Liverpool Middle School with local leaders and law enforcers to discuss the issue of school safety.

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