Former Campbell County Commissioner and Gillette City Councilman Stephen F. Hughes, 66, was found dead inside his business, Landmark Inc., early Friday morning, according to information released by …
CHEYENNE — The state Senate’s Education Committee endorsed a bill Friday that seeks to improve safety in Wyoming’s public schools by helping districts hire police officers and creating a task force to develop school safety and security plans.
The panel unanimously approved House Bill 230. The bill, which has already passed the House, likely will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee next.
The bill comes after the Dec. 14 massacre of children in a Connecticut elementary school raised nationwide debate on school safety, gun rights and gun control.
The proposal makes $2.3 million available to help school districts put school resource officers in schools during the next school year.
“They are a police officer, or in some cases a sheriff’s deputy as well,” said Rep. Nathan Winters, the bill’s sponsor. “But they also help with drug programs, do a lot of training with kids and many times they wind up testifying in court cases.”
Wyoming, however, has no specific program that funds school resource officers, and it lacks school safety and security protocols for school districts to follow.
Winters, R-Thermopolis, said districts with school resource officers use a “hodge-podge” of sources to pay for the officers while other districts can’t afford them.
“I have three or four school districts, who actually they’re having to choose between a program in the school or this particular position,” he said. “They’re making a hard choice, one they don’t want to make, but they’re going to have to cut the school resource officer.”
The proposed bill creates a governor-appointed task force to develop school safety and security protocols that districts could use in adopting their own school safety and security plans. In addition, the state Education Department would make recommendations to the Legislature by the end of this year on how to pay for school resource officers.
Supporters say school resource officers are a valuable tool in stopping and preventing crime and violence in schools.
“They aren’t just about safety, they are about preventing things from happening, bullying, different things,” said Kathy Vetter, president of the Wyoming Education Association. “They become part of the classroom. They go into the classroom. They do presentations for our students, for our classes.”
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie and a member of the Senate Education Committee, voiced concern whether the $2.3 million was adequate.
However, other committee members noted the House had reduced the bill’s appropriation from $5.5 million and they didn’t want to jeopardize its chances of passing the Legislature.