Cantor: I support our Scottsdale SRO program over guns in the classroom

With all of the talk about teachers carrying guns during class — which is a recommendation I personally do not support — and I am not quiet about it, so it is no wonder I received a phone call from a parent when a Scottsdale entity commented on “School Resource Officers” in SUSD schools.

The partnership with the Scottsdale Police Department is recognized nationally as one of the most successful.

During the 1987-88 school year SUSD and the Scottsdale Police Department piloted our SRO program at Hohokam Elementary School where my sons attended and I was president of the PTA.

Our PTA executive board jumped at the chance to help create a proactive positive comprehensive safety program that broke down the barriers and allowed our officers and students to interact.

The SRO program was also a resource for parents and the neighborhoods.

Officer Lee Zeis was the first SRO and spent time in the classroom presenting the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior.

It was founded in Los Angeles in 1983 as a joint initiative of then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District and our officer went to trainings with the LAPD.During the same school year, the Scottsdale Prevention Institute was launched by Howard Keim to provide counseling for students and families for everything from substance abuse to families going through the divorce process and support for single parents.

Hohokam and Laguna elementary schools were the piloting schools for that program that still works with SUSD families.

In 1993 the Phoenix Police Department along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms originated the Gang Resistance Education And Training, abbreviated G.R.E.A.T., program, to provide instruction of life skills.

The foundation of the G.R.E.A.T program focuses on providing life skills to students to help them avoid delinquent behavior and resorting to violence to solve problems.

A community does not need to have a gang problem in order to benefit from the program as its primary objective is prevention and is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership.

Again SUSD and Scottsdale police have had a successful record working with families and students and community resources on gang prevention.

To top all of this off, SUSD’s head of security and crisis management, Jim Dorer, is a retired Scottsdale police officer who also worked with the state gang taskforce and helped launch the East Valley Fusion Center that coordinates all law enforcement units working in Arizona.

Most folks know that I have spent the last 30 years volunteering here in my hometown. My family has always served in some capacity where ever we lived, especially in schools and working at the polls on election day. For me, schools were a no brainer. My late husband taught high school English and journalism, and helped with SUSD’s early broadcasting programs. Our sons were our catalyst to be involved.

Law enforcement came in when the Hohokam PTA was asked to lead the opposition to the opening of topless nightclub, without notice, adjacent to the middle school bus stop on McDowell Road. The building was not designed for a nightclub to begin with and it was taking our middle school kids an hour to go half a block home from the bus stop.

From the bus stop to working on neighborhood safety and school safety seems along time ago, and it was. Seriously, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and help my community.

Our SUSD School Resource Officers are an asset we cannot afford to ignore. Our Coronado Neighborhood Schools, Officer Brian Hartman is the SRO.

Both Officer Hartman and Officer Dorer can be reached at 480-484-8640, are approachable, knowledgeable and devoted to the welfare of our kids, teachers and community.

In these difficult times, any parent or community member who has questions or concerns can contact either gentleman, well, any of our SRO’s, and/or Assistant Chief Jeff Walther, head of the Uniformed Services Division of the Scottsdale Police Department 480-312-5000.

Editor’s note: Ms. Cantor is a Scottsdale resident and longtime community advocate

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