Capital to hire three armed constables for Dover High School

DOVER — Hiring three armed constables for Dover High School next year is worth the added cost, school district staff and board members said Wednesday.

Citing the benefit of enhanced safety provided by well-trained law enforcement officers, the Capital School District school board voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to switch from a private security company contracted in the past.

“With issues such as bomb threats and what’s happened throughout the country with school shootings, it’s becoming more important than ever these days to have trained law enforcement personnel with a vested interest in the school,” school board Mark Lindell said. “This is a proactive approach and although we may never have a [large] problem, however, it’s worth the investment in this day and age to add a level of security.

“These constables aren’t hired guns and can come in and have a vested interest as a school district employee and make it an even better climate in the school,”

Hiring three constables as school district employees will add approximately $35,000 to $39,000 to the safety budget that was at $71,000 last school year and $75,000 the year before, Capital School District Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton said.

“Our focus has been all the certifications and quality of person we will be adding for the [betterment of the school’s safety and environment],” Dr. Shelton said.

“A retired police officer or one with a minimum of 10 years law enforcement or more has a laundry list of training that I wouldn’t even think about. They’re going to recognize things that [others don’t see] and have the ability to intervene [in the best possible manner].”

Safe in school?

According to a 2015-2016 Dover High student survey, 50 percent disagreed or disagreed a lot with the statement that “Students are safe in the hallways.” Nearly 56 percent of students agreed that “Students know they are safe in this school.”

Dan Shelton

Dan Shelton

There’s plenty to cover safety-wise at Dover High’s 310,000 square foot building with multiple entry points and with 1,830 students, board member Sean Christiansen said.

While Dover High’s senior class president expressed concern about adding firearms within the school building, Dr. Shelton said the “firearms are for external threats first and foremost.”

Officials said Dover High’s School Resource Officer — Master Cpl. Demetrius Stevenson of the Dover Police Department — will continue to oversee disciplinary matters, while constables will focus on diffusing troublesome situations and concentrate on any external threats that may approach the school.

Constables will not have arrest powers, Dr. Shelton said.

The Capital School District investigated the successful program in the Indian River School District, and aims to model its own constables the same way.

Mr. Christiansen said he met with two teachers, two parents and a recent Indian River High graduate who spoke glowingly of the constable setup there.

“The student said there had been a decrease in behavioral incidents at the school, and the parents were not concerned of the extra firearms at school because of the [professional law enforcement officers] who were handling them,” Mr. Christiansen said.

According to Mr. Christiansen no constable at Indian River has pulled his gun from the holster in three years of service.

“Constables have the training to be able to diffuse situations through connecting and communicating with students,” Mr. Christiansen said.

A “very diverse hiring committee” will find highly qualified candidates, Mr. Christiansen said, including the senior class president who spoke on Tuesday night.

Outlining responsibilities

In a presentation to the Capital School Board on in early June, Dover High Principal Courtney Voshell outlined a summary of constable job responsibilities that included:

• Responsible for the safety and well being of students, staff, volunteers, visitors and school facilities and property at assigned school location.

CONSTABLE QUALIFICATIONS The following qualifications are required to be a constable at Dover High: • At least 10 years of experience in a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. • Separated in good standing from law enforcement agency. • Possesses the physical stamina required for patrolling the school campus. • Possesses or is willing to obtain first aid and CPR certificates. • Has demonstrated evidence of good habits in job attendance and punctuality. • Clean criminal background check, TB test, and Child Protection Registry. • Possesses or is willing to obtain an HR 218 concealed carry permit.

CONSTABLE QUALIFICATIONS
The following qualifications are required to be a constable at Dover High:
• At least 10 years of experience in a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.
• Separated in good standing from law enforcement agency.
• Possesses the physical stamina required for patrolling the school campus.
• Possesses or is willing to obtain first aid and CPR certificates.
• Has demonstrated evidence of good habits in job attendance and punctuality.
• Clean criminal background check, TB test, and Child Protection Registry.
• Possesses or is willing to obtain an HR 218 concealed carry permit.

• Supervising and monitoring of students within and outside school buildings.

• Enforce student behavior.

• Communicate with students regarding issues and/or behavior.

• Escort students and/or unauthorized visitors.

• Assist with bus, recess and/or lunch duty.

• Assist with fire drills, school safety drills, other threats and assisting in the removal from classroom of disruptive students.

Ms. Voshell pointed to several successful resolutions that Indian River constables achieved, including detection of a Glock 23 .40 caliber handgun a person was carrying while exiting a vehicle in the school parking lot on April 1, 2015. Several “Above and Beyond” recognitions from the school board were detailed.

Also, among others, Ms. Voshell highlighted the immediate reaction and training a constable used to save the life of a school employee as part of an AED response team during a medical emergency in the school’s cafeteria on Nov. 12, 2014.

The district said an online survey regarding school district is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DHSSafety. Feedback can be submitted to www.capital.k12.de.us/page/3333.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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