Duanesburg on track for second school resource officer

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SCHENECTADY — Plans to add a second resource officer to Duanesburg schools are on track after county lawmakers on Monday advanced an agreement between the district and the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office. 

The county’s Committee on Public Safety and Firefighting approved an updated memorandum of understanding between both parties that will see Duanesburg pay just over $60,500 for the additional school resource officer, who will be tasked with monitoring the district’s elementary and middle school. The district’s expense accounts for 70% of the officer’s total cost of $86,541, according to the agreement. 

Duanesburg schools have had a single school resource officer at the high school since 2019 under the same agreement with the sheriff’s office. The updated contract adds a second officer to the district and is expected to be approved by the county legislature next week.

It’s unclear when the new school resource officer is expected to begin. The district did not return a request seeking comment Tuesday. 

Superintendent James Niedermeier announced plans for the second resource officer during a public safety forum the district hosted in January. He said at the time the district was adding the officer over growing safety concerns in the wake of several high-profile school shootings, and that the district would be using federal coronavirus-relief dollars to pay for the additional expense. 

School districts throughout the region have added school resource officers in recent months, including those in Schenectady and Saratoga Springs, where community members expressed vastly differing opinions about how police fit into school safety.

Critics there have argued that money spent on school resource officers would be better used to bolster mental health resources and other programs. Many also raised concerns about how the presence of police would impact students of color, and pointed to studies by the American Civil Liberties Union that have found higher rates of expulsion and arrest — particularly among Black students — in schools that are patrolled by police officers.  

But others have argued that having police in schools would not only foster a safer environment for students and staff, but could lead to better relations between the community and police, a goal communities have been grappling with since the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 reignited the debate around policing and systemic racism. 

Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino praised the program, noting that officer involved build relationships with students that help keep them on track.

“They develop a level of trust between the students and the officers, and the officers work very hard to engage those students in keeping them out of the legal system and also keeping them goal-focused and a mentor of sorts,” he said. “We’re very happy with the program. Apparently Duanesburg is too.” 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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