Massena Central says no plan to educate students on rights regarding armed school resource officer
Monday, August 19, 2019 - 9:36 am

Updated at 3:42 p.m. to clarify that the primary purpose for hiring the school resource officer is to provide protection for students and staff following numerous school shootings nationwide in recent years.

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

MASSENA -- The Massena Central superintendent said with an armed school security officer set to patrol the halls this year, there are no plans to educate the student body on their rights under the Constitution when dealing with police, beyond the current social studies curriculum.

The primary purpose of the officer is to "provide a measure of protection against those who would seek to do harm to others," school officials said late last year when results of a community survey indicated 90% or more support for the position. "Rising issues of school shootings round the country merit additional steps to reduce risks of violence against our school community."

Massena Central and the Village of Massena have a deal for the Massena Police Department to assign a police officer, Jody Daggett, to the district for the upcoming school year.

Even though Daggett will be a sworn officer with the legal power to make arrests, Superintendent Pat Brady at the Board of Education meeting Aug. 15 said Daggett is not there to get involved in student disciplinary matters. That is outlined in the job description that the village and district agreed on earlier this year.

"I think we have to go back to the purpose of what this SRO is. It's not there to provide discipline," Brady said. "This is to provide safety and education."

He also said they don't have a plan for getting a lawyer for students who may invoke their right to counsel when dealing with the officer. The current social studies curriculum includes lessons on constitutional rights when dealing with police, such as those covered under the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment. There are no plans to offer any information beyond that.

"We don't have plans to do a presentation on their constitutional rights ... it may organically happen when students are interested in that subject," Brady said. "This is a learning experience for our students. If any of the students have questions about the SRO and their rights, we will give that information to them."

He said in the process leading up to finding an SRO, the district didn't consider how they would handle it if a student requests to have legal counsel present when speaking with the officer.

"I don't think it was necessary that we had to think about everything that's going to occur," Brady said. "We've been very clear with the public about what our intent is ... when issues arise we will deal with it at that time."