January 21, 2010 in Washington Voices

Schools could lose officers

Liaisons with districts might get caught in budget crunch
By The Spokesman-Review
J. Rayniak photo

Deputy Ron Nye works the playground at Freeman Middle School last Thursday. Establishing relationships between himself and the children, and keeping them safe, are his main jobs as a school resource officer, he said.
(Full-size photo)

At a glance

The School Resource Deputy programs serving Deer Park, Mt. Spokane High School, Mead High School, Freeman and Liberty are in jeopardy because of possible Spokane County budget cuts.

Resource officers assigned to Central Valley, East Valley and West Valley school districts are mostly funded by the city of Spokane Valley.

Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Nye spends his days creating relationships with the students in the Liberty and Freeman School Districts. As a school resource deputy, he shows up to football games and dances at the schools and works as an extension of the school staff.

“Truly, Ron is not just your typical cop,” said Sergio Hernandez, superintendant of the Freeman School District.

But Nye’s presence in the two districts could end by next December, because of shrinking budgets in the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office provides school resource deputies to the Freeman and Liberty districts, as well as Mead and Deer Park. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, once a school resource officer in Wyoming, said the relationships the deputies make with the students often lead to a safer environment for the students. The deputies hear about crimes or other problems in the schools and can often deal with the problems early.

“It just puts pressure back on the schools to deal with those issues,” Knezovich said of the potential loss of the program.

Knezovich said there is one resource deputy in Deer Park, one at Mt. Spokane High School, one at Mead High School and Nye, who splits his time between Freeman and Liberty. Those positions are all in jeopardy because of possible county budget cuts.

Resource officers assigned to Central Valley, East Valley and West Valley school districts are mostly funded by the city of Spokane Valley.

The deputies all have seniority and will be reassigned, but the sheriff expects that if there are layoffs within the office, it would be more junior deputies.

Hernandez said that the most important aspect of Nye’s position in the school is his relationship with the students. He said that those relationships lead to prevention.

“We want to help our kids be successful,” he said.

Hernandez also said Nye provides the area with law enforcement needs when on duty. Nye can quickly respond to other things going on in southern Spokane County such as emergencies and car accidents. He also operates the radar gun to make sure everyone is maintaining 20 mph in school zones and counsels students about safe driving.

Nye said the relationships he has with the students in the elementary schools is different than those he has in the high schools.

“With the younger kids, it’s almost like I’m a celebrity,” Nye said. The older students know that he is approachable and can come and talk to him about anything.

“I’m a person, too,” he said.

For Hernandez, the loss of the program would be felt throughout the district.

“We’ll lose a good friend,” the superintendant said. “He’ll be missed.”

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