ST. BERNARD, La. - A fight involving multiple teens at Chalmette High School had parents fired up about the school's safety measures.
Two weeks later, the school has its first full-time, uniformed resource officer. And the St. Bernard Parish Public School District has announced expanded searches with drug dogs in its middle and high schools.
“We did have concerned parents who were asking us if we could look at an increased security presence. It did stimulate further discussion with the sheriff, and we had been in those discussions for many months about that,” said Doris Voitier, superintendent of St. Bernard Public Schools.
Despite rumors among parents and students, Voitier emphasizes that there were no weapons, injuries or arrests during last month’s fight.
The resource officer will be a St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office employee, but work full time at the school, said Voitier, who added that the officer is expected to establish good relationships with the students as well as an increased security presence.
“It's just another tool in the arsenal,” said Voitier.
Drug-sniffing dogs have been brought into schools occasionally since Hurricane Katrina.
Now, they will likely be brought into schools once or twice a year. Voitier hopes they will serve as a deterrent.
“Students will know that there's the possibility drug dogs will be coming in. I don't think we have a significant [drug] problem any more so than any other school or community would have,” said Voitier.
While some parents say they're excited the school will have an officer's presence, others say it's too little, too late.
“There should have been an officer here from the very beginning. There should be an officer at every school, just as a presence because of the idea of the way society is going,” said Pamela Serigne, the parent of a senior at Chalmette High School and a science teacher at a school in Orleans Parish.
Despite concerns from parents, district officials don't believe the school has major issues.
But for parents increased security is a much-needed step to make sure their kids are safe.
Voitier said the school district also plans to step up residency checks in response to complaints from parents. And the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office has hired recently a part-time liaison to strengthen communications between the Sheriff’s Office and the school district.
Many schools in the metro area already have resource officers. That includes schools in St. Tammany and St. Charles Parishes, where students were arrested this week following threats to student safety.