Douglas schools seeking to double officer presence

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BOX ELDER, S.D. (KOTA TV) Douglas Schools want to beef up security and are asking the Pennington County Commission to help fund two new sheriff's deputies assigned to the district.

"If our kids aren't safe there's not much else we can do," said district Superintendent Alan Kerr. "So we take that as our top priority."

Security issues have been at the forefront in the Douglas School District this academic year including a bomb threat last month. The number of long term suspensions -- 10 days or longer -- handed out is on the rise in recent years. In 2015-'16, there were two such suspensions. That number jumper to seven last school year and this year the tally stands at 11.

And now the district wants to double the number of school resource officers, or SRO's, assigned from the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.

"We currently have two SRO's and we'd like to add two additional SRO's," said Kerr. "We have four different buildings and we'd like to put an SRO in each building."

Kerr on Tuesday will ask the county commissioners for help funding the new officers. Typically school districts and law enforcement share the costs of resource officers. Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom says he supports the request. Parents agree.

"I commend the Douglas School District for this move," said parent Peter Holtz. "Anything that we can do in this day and age to make our children safer in their learning environment I fully support."

Douglas isn't alone among KOTA Territory schools concerned about security where adding officers is something of a trend.

Spearfish schools added an SRO last month and Rapid City schools are adding one next school year.

The New Underwood and Wall districts are in talks about adding a new Resource Officer the split time between the two districts.

"It's important for all of us, parents, board members staff members and to the students most importantly that we keep them safe," said Kerr. "That's got to be priority Number One."

Kerr said he believes the new officers are the best solution. He said he's strongly opposed to the South Dakota School Sentinel Program that allows for arming school teachers and staff.