School safety questions arise at Dallas meeting

By Dan Stokes - [email protected]
Dallas High School. (Times Leader File Photo) -

DALLAS TWP. — Dallas School Board member Patrick Musto had his late motion to add more school resource officers to the district voted down at Monday night’s meeting.

Musto wanted the district to add three more officers and brought the subject up during the new business portion of the meeting. He managed to bring the motion to a vote, but it was defeated 6-2.

Citing articles in the UK News and New York Times, Musto said the officers are needed.

“There have been 20 school shootings in the last year alone,” Musto said. “Lethal force must be used to defend lethal force.”

Board member Susan Allen suggested the topic be tabled for further discussion, but since her suggestion came after Musto’s motion was seconded the board went a head with the vote.

“We have one SRO at the moment,” said Allen. “We need to talk more about this issue. Despite recent spending on security for the district, we still may have some vulnerabilities that need to be discussed so we can make an informed decision.”

The district’s current SRO patrols all four schools but is stationed at the high school and makes $60,000 a year. Adding three more officers would cost the district an added $180,000, Allen argued.

In a back-to-school newsletter, the district listed a host of safety features on campus, including an increased presence of Dallas Township police officers, additional barriers and upgraded technology.

The vote was not without debate.

“Are you willing to leave the safety of school children and employees at the hands of fate?” Musto asked the board.

Other board members were surprised by Musto’s bid.

“I hate to say it but you blindsided us with this,” said board member Larry Schuler. “If (Musto) wanted the board to vote on this, you should have added it to the agenda so we could of had a more informed discussion.”

The only votes in favor of hiring additional officers were Musto and Catherine Wega.

“The way tonight’s vote came out, does not say that we don’t care about the safety of the students and the employees of the district,” Wega said to the audience. “Everyone on the board cares about the students with every fiber of their bodies.”

Allen said the possibility of adding more officers was not over.

“I take this position very seriously,” Allen said after the meeting. “We have not dropped the idea of getting an additional SRO. The problem with tonight is that Mr. Musto brought this up on his own and not to the committee.”

Allen mentioned that there were some issues that were brought up during contract talks with the Dallas Township Police on adding new SRO officers.

“We need to be fiscally responsible as well as safety responsible,” she said.

Allen remains optimistic the district will add at least one more SRO before the end of 2018.

“Having SROs on our campus has never been off the table,” she said. “We are not going to make a decision just based on the funding, but we need to make sure the contract is right as well.”

Dallas High School. (Times Leader File Photo) High School. (Times Leader File Photo)

By Dan Stokes

[email protected]

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes