New for school this year: sheriff’s deputies at DC West, Bennington and Elkhorn schools

Sheriff’s deputies will be posted in Douglas County West and Bennington public schools for the first time beginning this fall, under agreements approved Tuesday by the Douglas County Board.

Three additional Elkhorn middle schools also will have a school resource officer assigned to them for the first time. Those are Elkhorn Valley View, Elkhorn Grandview and Elkhorn Ridge Middle Schools, which will share a sheriff’s deputy under an agreement approved Tuesday. Elkhorn and Elkhorn South High Schools and Elkhorn Middle School have already had school resources officers.

Douglas County West and Bennington school district officials asked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to provide school resource officers. They cited concerns about school safety. The deputies will be primarily stationed at the high schools, but will also visit other schools in the districts.

The school districts and the county will split the cost 50/50, according to the agreements approved Tuesday. That’s expected to be about $80,000 to $90,000 for each deputy. The arrangements were previously approved by the school districts’ boards.

DC West Superintendent Melissa Poloncic and Bennington Superintendent Terry Haack said they’ll introduce the deputies to staff and students at back-to-school events.

In Tuesday’s meeting, County Board Member Mike Boyle said he was concerned that having the deputies in the schools could lead to students’ being unnecessarily arrested.

“What I’m concerned about is with these resource officers, that they don’t get involved in discipline of students,” Boyle said. “I’m really concerned that if there’s some kids that get in a fight or something that they’ll be charged and referred to the county attorney for some kind of action. … What they ought to be doing is focusing on the security of the building and the students.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Hudson sought to assuage Boyle’s concern. Hudson said he laid out his expectations on that point to school resource officers in a meeting Monday.

“We let the school handle disciplinary actions,” Hudson said. “We are not there to respond because someone won’t leave a class or someone’s acting out, things of that nature.”

He said the officers are there to respond to possible criminal behavior but will try to “do as least possible when it comes to criminal enforcement.”

“We are there if there is an active threat that threatens the school, we’re there to neutralize the threat,” Hudson said.

The board unanimously approved the contracts.

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