SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 427 Board member Steve Nelson spoke about school resource officers and the issue of arming teachers during Tuesday’s meeting.
He said he’d prefer the district have school resource officers in charge of security for District 427 schools. This was not an agenda item, nor is it currently on the docket.
“I would much rather see SROs, I would much rather see the state fund that, and I hope we would put much more emphasis in that going forward,” Nelson said. “I don’t see it happening from the state.”
Nelson said some schools don’t have the safety and security Sycamore does.
He said the sponsoring district, Mercer County School District 404 is in an area with five towns – none big enough for a police force.
“They rely solely on their county [sheriff],” he said. “The response time even if the guy’s traveling at 80 mph could be up to 20 minutes.”
Nelson said a local donor offered and paid for about half the cost of an SRO for most of the buildings. He said the District 404 found some money. He said they asked the county to “kick in” $14,000 and the county voted no.
“They did find some people to take the positions before the end of the school year, I believe,” Nelson said.
He said from his perspective it is as a local control issue, and they don’t have a lot of options there.
“I would never vote for it here, and I don’t think I would ever want my wife, who’s a teacher in the district to be armed. What if an eighth grade student overpowered her and took the gun away?” Nelson said.
He said there are a bunch of scenarios there that are an issue. “I didn’t feel it was my position to take away that option from someone who has little option.”
Jim Dombek, president of District 427 Board, said he did not agree with Nelson.
“I’m totally opposed to your stance,” he said to Nelson. “I think this is the wrong approach. I think there’s a much better approach. Remember what this is, this is a recommendation we lobbied for a particular legislation and particular position in Springfield.”
He said it’s a difficult front and a losing front.
“I see no way that’s going to make it through legislation,” he said.
“Secondly, I’m all for local control,” he said. “I love local control, and I hate the fact that local control is being taken away. I just think this is the wrong approach to take.”
Dombek suggested putting effort into advocating for SROs and paid SROs, the county sheriff could have an SRO, which they could hire and use the money from the state to pay the officer. He said hopefully they could get the SRO to stay.
“That would resolve the issue for them in a way I think is much safer and much sounder than just going kind of off the pier and diving into the water and saying, ‘Everybody armor up and let’s go Wild West, here we come.’ There’s too much of that already as it is and so I think we should be advocating a position I think is stronger and is a leadership position and is a position that advocates for fairness across the board for all school districts.”