MEIGS COUNTY — As the school year started for students around Meigs County this past week, school safety continues to be a focus of local officials.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood recently explained that his office has added a fourth school resource officer to the team in order to better serve the youth of the county.
The addition of the fourth officer was possible in part due to grant funding received from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office received $27,678 in funding for the year according to a news release from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office this week.
According to the news release, a total of 152 sheriffs’ offices and police departments are to receive a portion of the $3,098,808 in Drug Use Prevention Grant funds. The funds must be used to establish or maintain drug abuse prevention education and awareness programs for students during the 2018-2019 school year.
Grant recipients are required to include over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse prevention education in their programs.
“Age-appropriate substance abuse prevention education every year, at every grade level is key,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Evidence-based prevention education helps students develop the skills they need to make good decisions, stay drug-free, and live healthier lives.”
The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office has received grant funding for the program through the Attorney General’s Office since 2013.
“I am pleased with the grant,” said Wood. “It has allowed us to move way ahead.”
Wood said the grant for the past few years has allowed for the county to develop a program, and expand it, while others are just now beginning such programs in response to recent events in schools. The program began with one officer in 2013, moving to four for the 2018-19 school year.
“DeWine’s office has worked closely with us to make sure the grant happens. They are very supportive of the schools,” said Wood.
Meigs County School Resource Officers are Deputy Joe Barnhart (Eastern), Deputy Jimmy Riley (Meigs), Deputy Clinton Patterson (Eastern) and Deputy Dana Aldridge. Each of the four spend time in the area schools, working with the students, staff and administration.
In addition to having a presence in Eastern, Meigs and Southern local schools, the officers spend time at the Rio Grande Meigs Branch and Carleton School.
Aldridge is to take part in DARE training later this fall, taking the steps to bring the program to the area students. He will also work with training in the local schools.
Wood explained that by incorporating the DARE program it will provide a new direction for the classroom instruction portion.
In addition to the work inside the classrooms and the school buildings, the school resource officers and other agencies worked to put on the “hooked on Fishing not on Drugs” program in the spring, something that the sheriff hopes to continue moving forward.
The School Resource Officers are just a part of the school safety conversations that have been taking part during frequent meetings of the local superintendents, sheriff, and school safety council on how to better protect the students of the county.
“I am very excited about the school safety council,” said Wood of the conversations taking place and the progress being made in the meetings.
“The superintendents are making efforts and are strong advocates for their schools and students,” added Wood.
Additionally, the sheriff’s office and each of the local school districts took part in the ALICE Instructor Training held at Eastern Elementary in July.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.