More Security for Rockford Schools?

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Violence is increasing in schools across the nation and its no stranger to Rockford classrooms.

District 205 wants to beef up security at area schools. It’s currently reviewing bids from private security firms in an effort to add more officers to buildings. But the idea isn't sitting well with Rockford police officers who currently staff buildings.

Discipline problems in Rockford classrooms pushed their way to record numbers last year. Expulsions for fighting and bringing weapons to school doubled.

"Our concern is having more security in the schools, certainly not less," says School Board President Nancy Kalchbrenner.

Right now eight full-time officers and a supervisor are designated to district schools - one officer for each high school and four officers who split their time between middle and elementary schools.

"We would really like to have one person that's assigned to each of our buildings but they have some manpower issues that make that difficult," says Kalchbrenner.

So outsourcing that extra work to a private security firm is now on the table. Security guards would be hired in addition to Rockford police officers.

But Rockford officers say quantity isn't always better than quality.

"We know how to respond to active shootings in school. We know how to respond to emotional students. We know how to take the proper action," says Officer Aurelio De La Rosa, who is also the vice president of the Rockford Police Union.

De La Rosa also questions the amount of respect students would have for security guards vs. police officers. But he does admit right now the department does not have extra officers to spare for schools.

"We're just going to have to work as a whole - the city of Rockford, the school board - to bring on more officers."

De La Rosa says officers plan to meet with Dr. Thompson to discuss other options.

Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson says the jobs of these security guards would be different from the jobs of police officers. He wants one trained security guard assigned to each school to monitor doorways and stairwells and to help guide visitors, perhaps unexpected visitors, in the right direction.

He says these are duties administrators, teachers as well as police officers should not be responsible for.

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