The Walton County Sheriff’s Office responds to hundreds of calls to the numerous schools which lie within the unincorporated county, which includes the majority of the schools in the Walton County School District.
Of those calls, a majority of them occur at the elementary schools, where deputies are often called to deal with parent disputes, custody battles, traffic incidents and other such issues.
Tuesday night, Capt. Darren Vinson, in charge of the WCSO Youth Investigation Division, including the school resource officers stationed at various schools, pointed to those numbers before a work session of the Walton County Board of Education and asked the board to approve additional SROs to work within some of the district’s elementary schools to deal with just such incidents on a more direct basis.
“I’m asking you to consider four more school resource officers for the elementary schools,” Vinson said.
Currently, the WCSD has four SROs in county schools, located at Walnut Grove High School, Loganville Middle School, Carver Middle School and Youth Middle School (both Monroe Area High School and Loganville High School are within the city limits and SROs are provided by city police departments).
But Vinson said eight of the district’s nine elementary schools are in the county (only Bay Creek Elementary School, in Loganville, remains within a city’s limits) and that requires a lot of visits from the WCSO when calls come in.
The WCSO responded to 425 calls to schools in the 2016-17 school year, of which 223 came from elementary schools. Those numbers rose in the 2017-18 year, with 504 total calls, 302 at the elementary schools.
To date this school year, since school began Aug. 1, deputies have responded to 116 calls, 84 of them at elementary schools.
Vinson said these calls at the elementary schools were often calls to help with the Departmetn of Family and Children Services, but also included parent incidents and child custody situations on a frequent basis.
“Most problems at the elementary schools involve irate parents,” Vinson said.
Deputies are often asked to aid with events at the elementary schools as well, including 5K runs, festivals, open house nights, field days and other organized situations.
Deputies also direct traffic at seven WCSD schools every day — not only at the four schools where SROs are already stationed, but at Loganville Elementary, Sharon Elementary and Youth Elementary schools, and sometimes Atha Road and Walker Park elementary schools when requested.
This adds up to 140-plus hours a month of just traffic duty, requiring the payment of more than 30 hours of overtime each pay period.
All this, Vinson said, was just more reason to add four new SROs to the county — two in the schools around Monroe and two on the western side of the county.
Currently, the county pays $184,924 annually to the WCSO for its SRO contract, coming roughly to $46,000 per deputy, but the county wants to increase that amount to help pay not only base salaries but also benefits for SROs, asking for $55,000 per SRO, which would add up to more than $440,000 for eight SROs.
The WCBOE took no action at the work session but agreed to consider the proposal at a later date.