School Resource Officer coming to Uniontown School District

Salary will be paid for with a grant for the first three years

UNIONTOWN, Kan. – The halls at Uniontown High School may be empty right now, but when they are full again there will be a new face in the crowd. A school resource officer.

“This is the start of my fourth year here in Uniontown, and we have been without a school resource officer the entire time I have been here,” says Uniontown Superintendent Bret Howard.

Howard says that security has always been a concern for the school district, since the small town with a population that’s under 300 doesn’t have its own police department. Deputies with the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office do patrol the town regularly, but if anything happens at the school, they can be left waiting 10 to 15 minutes for a deputy to respond unless they are already close.

“And if you have an emergency, then ten or fifteen minutes is a little longer than you’re comfortable waiting,” says Howard.

The school district did have a part-time SRO at the beginning of the year for a few months, who had been doing security at the county courthouse. But when the pandemic forced schools to close, that deputy was put on the road. At the same time though, Bourbon County Sheriff Bill Martin applied for a grant to get a deputy in the schools full-time.

The sheriff’s office was awarded a 118-thousand dollar grant at the beginning of June, which will pay for the position for three years. But the county commission didn’t formally sign the paperwork to accept the grant until July 21st, after having to separate discussions about the grant where they cited concerns about paying for the position once the grant runs out.

You can read more about that in the county commissions June 30th and July 7th meeting minutes.

“They had valid points, and I understand that. But the first three years is being paid for by the federal COPS grant,” says Martin. “When the COPS grant does run out or it’s getting close to running out, it’s time to sit down with the school district to move this forward financially.”

But until that happens, Howard says that having the officer in the district is a big win for the students.

“We can build that relationship. But we also can possibly work to develop a program for our students for drugs and alcohol,” says Howard. “And hopefully work with them daily to develop a relationship so they can just become comfortable. So they don’t assume that anytime they see a deputy it means something bad happened.”

Sheriff Martin says the deputy is currently training for the position so that they will be ready to hit the ground running when the school year starts.