Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht visited Peters Township High School Thursday to speak at the final Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) meeting of the year. He addressed recent concerns and questions about the placement of a school resource officer in April.
Officer Jim Stevick has been working at the school daily since mid-April. For now, the potential program isn’t full-time. But, the school board and police department hope to go that route.
“It’s evolving,” Stevick said about his typical day. “Initially, it was presence. I’m just trying to get a program working—enhancing it week by week. I’m finding more and more things to do.”
The idea of a police officer patrolling the hallways of PTHS has been tossed around for the last four to five years, Fruecht said.
The department has been filing a 67-page grant each year and each year it’s rejected. Because Peters Township is a community with low crime statistics, they don't see an “evident” need to have an officer in the school, he said.
“The type of community we live in, it’s just not there,” Fruecht said. “But, this year, the opportunity presented itself, so we took it.”
Officer Stevick said he’s been welcomed.
“The staff and students have been great,” he said. “It’s refreshing. I didn’t expect the welcome. Now, the kids are becoming used to me. I don’t get that rattlesnake look anymore.”
Fruecht said he sees a lot of benefit to it.
“The students will learn to have confidence in him,” he said. “They’ll see a police officer in a different light. There will be good things that come out of it.”
Currently, Stevick has been focusing on building security.
“Anything that I’ve found, (the school) has been quick to respond to,” he said. “I’m finding doors that mechanically aren’t securing and that’s a big part of school safety. Now, if I find a door ajar, it’s out of the ordinary.
“It’s been amazing how the kids have responded.”
So much so, they’ve made a Twitter handle for him, according to Principal Lori Pavlik.
Stevick said he’s not "handing out discipline." In fact, he's not allowed until parents are notified by the school about the incident regarding their child, Pavlik said.
“We have greater ability to do searches than the police,” she said. “But, he’s aiding us in being able to identify things more. It’s a learning process.”
Stevick said he’s handled some student-drug activity thus far, and general student issues. Pavlik said having an officer in the parking lot in the morning has been truly helpful with student driving.
Stevick said he encourages students to approach him—even with personal issues. He travels when a situation calls him to another school, but he spends most of his time at the high school.
As far as cost to taxpayers, Fruecht said he doesn’t know the exact numbers because it takes four to sixth months to process and the police officer won’t be working in the district during the summer.
School board member Lori Cuervo reminded meeting attendees that the board's budget wouldn’t be finalized until June.
“The relationship between the officer and the students is worth its weight in gold,” Fruecht said. “I see it as a tremendous advantage. We’ve seen success with having a D.A.R.E. officer in the lower grades.”
Another officer will be taking Stevick’s place on Monday for the remainder of the school year, but Fruecht said if the program becomes full-time next year, 95 percent of the time it’ll be the same officer.
Right now, the students and the police department are gearing up for this year's Mock Crash on Thursday, May 17, at 8 a.m.
The junior and senior students will witness a crash recovery acted out by eight students and two teachers, then partake in an assembly.
Freshman and sophomore students will watch a video that shows the realistic consequences of underage drinking, then participate in their own assembly.
Prom is scheduled for the following evening, Friday, May 18.