Officers to remain out of Syracuse middle schools

Despite calls by parents and the Syracuse Teachers Association to put police officers back in Syracuse Middle Schools full time, Superintendent Sharon Contreras said the district will not do so.

At a board meeting on Wednesday, Contreras said middle school safety is a very serious issue, but she believes "our district has the necessary procedures and recourses in place to respond to these incidents and to keep our buildings safe."

Contreras noted the district still has 31 safety officers, video surveillance and nine police officers at district high schools capable of responding to middle and elementary schools.

Budget problems forced Contreras to pull police officers from middle schools. On Monday, the first day officers were officially removed from schools, a teacher at Danforth Middle School was injured after she tried to break up a fight.

Last week a school resource officer confiscated a small pocketknife from a student at Huntington K-8 School in the city. Bonnie Lyke's two grandchildren will attend Huntington next year and she says she wished the recourse officer would be there too.

"You never know. Kids these days, they bring all kinds of things, guns weapons. You never know what's going to happen and I'd feel better if they were right on the spot to catch it," said Lyke.

Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern spoke at Wednesday night's School Board meeting, and urged Contreras to reconsider saying the officers did much more than discipline students. He said they were a pivotal part of the structure in district middle schools.

"They bring a lot to their relationship with kids, they help keep a focused school culture," said Ahern.

Contreras issued a statement at Wednesday's board meeting, but would not answer any questions from the media -- instead directing questions to the district's Director of Security Thomas Ristoff. Ristoff said that Syracuse has roughly the same amount of security staffing as the Buffalo, Rochester and Yonkers school districts.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler told CNY Central that both the district and his department are making security in middle schools a top priority, and said there is an option of putting officers back in Middle Schools in the future if need be.

"There is a very specific strategy to this and along with the strategy there is checks and balances. Where we have key personnel that are watching this situation very closely and we need to make some adjustments you have a superintendent and a chief of police that are ready and willing to make those adjustments," said Fowler.