New public safety programs in Hall County’s schools, from drug dogs to driver education, have earned the Hall County Sheriff’s Office a national distinction.
Meanwhile, a private citizen has come forward to purchase two more dogs that will be used for periodic checks in high school halls.
The 13 deputies who serve as school resource officers for the Hall County school system’s six high schools and six middle schools are being recognized with the Model School Resource Officer Agency Award by the National Association of School Resource Officers. The award will be presented at the association’s annual conference next month.
The school district pays for 70 percent of the expenses for the school resource officers.
In the past two years, the sheriff’s office added two drug dogs that are trained to sniff out marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. The dogs are based out of North Hall High School and East Hall High School, and make the rounds at the other high schools.
A private contribution of $15,000 will fund two additional drug dogs, Hall County sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Strickland said. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, came forward after learning of the successes with the current "K-9" program in the schools, Strickland said.
One school resource officer is currently training in North Carolina with a new dog. It will be in place at Johnson High School by the opening of the school year this fall, Strickland said. A fourth dog will be added later in the year, he said.
The sheriff’s office also added a rewards program in the schools that pays $200 for every confidential tip that leads to a drug arrest.
Since summer 2007, the program has paid out $6,200. The school board and sheriff’s office split the cost of the program, with the sheriff’s money coming from seized funds.
School resource officers in the middle schools teach the sheriff’s Gang Resistance Education Program to new sixth-graders.
The sheriff’s resource officer-taught teen driver program was revamped in 2008 with a new curriculum that corresponds with new state requirements. The program is funded through private donations. About 1,100 students will have attended the free program by the end of the summer.
The model school resource officer program award is given out annually to a law enforcement agency that has shown excellence in several areas.
"I am extremely proud of our school resource officers," Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said. "They have all worked extremely hard as a team and are well-deserving. I also appreciate the partnership between the sheriff’s office and the Hall County Board of Education."