POQUOSON, Va. (WAVY) – As concerns continue over school violence and threats, school resource officers will start patrolling the halls of Poquoson High School and Poquoson Middle School when students return to class Sept. 4.
Over the summer, the Poquoson Police Department hired two officers – one for each school – after receiving two grants totaling $31,292 from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to pay a portion of the two salaries.
Dr. Shelly Cihak, principal at Poquoson High School, says Officer Dana Biggs will provide more than security. She expects Biggs to provide support in driver’s education, government and physical education classes.
“There’s really that curriculum connection, as well as being someone who can help our students when they need another ear and be that liaison between the school and the community,” said Cihak. “I wish every day that my number one job was to focus on education, but number one before anything else is to keep every student and every adult in this building safe.”
Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, parents petitioned the school board and city council for school resource officers.
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Kara Catlett, a mother of two, led the effort and pushed city officials to act after they initially dismissed the idea.
“I think we have a wonderful community, but we are not immune to what’s out there,” said Catlett. “It’s just another set of eyes.”
Officer Biggs, a 23-year veteran law enforcement officer who most previously spent 12 years as a York-Poquoson deputy, is assigned full-time to Poquoson High School.
“Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when,” said Biggs, adding that he believes it’s “paramount” to have a full-time SRO. “It’s not about having these things on my tool belt. The most important tool I have is my mouth. That’s about talking to kids, mentoring them [and] hopefully guiding them.”
Catlett hopes the added positions will result in less bullying, less drugs and less violence.
“I know it might not stop shootings, but they have stopped some shootings and they have stopped them earlier,” she said. “I think our schools are safer for that.”