Resource Officer Assigned After Threats, Complaints

SALISBURY – A student resource officer has been assigned to a Wicomico County school this week following recent threats.

In a statement released Monday, Pittsville Elementary and Middle School Principal Michael Cody announced the school had received an on-site student resource officer (SRO) following three separate threats made by students in recent weeks.

“I would like to thank our parents for the positive encouragement that has been given to our school staff as we faced a difficult situation last week, it truly is appreciated,” he said. “I would also encourage you to welcome Officer Chris Timmons as the School Resource Officer for the eastside of the county. Officer Timmons will be stationed at Pittsville Elementary/Middle School, but will also serve Willards Elementary and Beaver Run Elementary Schools when the need arises. Again, thank you for your encouragement and support.”

Last week, parents of Pittsville Elementary and Middle School students came before the Wicomico County Board of Education to request a SRO be stationed at the school. At that time, Pittsville Elementary and Middle shared a SRO with Parkside High School, roughly 10 miles away.

In addition to an on-site SRO, parents requested the school system address antiquated safety measures.

In a Wicomico County Council meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Donna Hanlin said arrangements were made to fund an additional SRO that will be stationed at Pittsville through the end of this year and into next year.  She added the school system will also undergo a school safety audit in the coming weeks.

“We are working with the Maryland Center for School Safety and we are going to be conducting, within the next week or two, an audit for school safety and security that will help us identify how we need to spend funding …,” she said. “That is a big step.”

Fitzgerald said the school board was taking measures to ensure student safety.

“At the board meeting we heard from the parents loud and clear,” he said. “We as a board knew what we had to do.”

While she couldn’t discuss the threats due to student privacy laws, Hanlin told the council each incident was being investigated and the appropriate discipline was being pursued.

Councilman Marc Kilmer, however, said student privacy laws leave parents uninformed of threats and issues within the school. He said state laws that prevent transparency in the schools should be addressed.

“As a parent, part of the issue is you are in the dark with what is going on in the schools …,” he said. “The rumors travel much faster than facts and truth.”

Tonya Lewis, Pittsville’s PTA president, told the council the school board was working with parents to prioritize safety at Pittsville Elementary and Middle School.

“I am an advocate for the children and safety is number one and I will fight it to the end,” she said. “I will fight for funding. I will fight for what we need to do to keep our children safe.”

Lewis commended the school board and county leaders for their support.

“We are thankful there is an SRO at the school,” she said. “We have welcomed him with open arms.”

Council President John Cannon also applauded the school board’s immediate actions.

“I am pleased with the board of education’s response to the Pittsville issue,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.