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DPS officer: More students, more criminal activity

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Dickinson Public School District Resource Officer Ron Van Doorne discusses issues that arise with increased students at a school board meeting Monday in the Central Administration Building.

The Dickinson Public Schools resource officer updated the school board Monday on problems that come along with increased students, many from outside North Dakota.

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By this fall, the school district is expected to have grown by 578 students since May 2013 — including 96 in middle school and 146 in high school, The Press previously reported. The growth is mostly associated with the oil boom, which is straining the school system along with other public services.

Ron Van Doorne, the Dickinson Police Department’s school resource officer, said the problems he’s seeing are natural with an increased population and aren’t alarming. But he said because many of the students may be coming from areas where acts like truancy are more acceptable, it’s becoming more of an issue here, where it wasn’t as much before.

“Truancy has been a very big issue for us and I think it’s … some of the demographics that these kids are coming from,” Van Doorne said.

He said more kids are also bringing criminal backgrounds with them.

“They’re bringing with them some baggage, some juvenile court issues from other areas,” Van Doorne said.

He said he’s working with parents, the Stark County state’s attorney office and the juvenile courts to tackle the new problems.

Van Doorne said the students are smart, so he purposefully doesn’t have a schedule because the kids would learn it and could act accordingly. He also said he’s seeing surprisingly young students committing crimes.

“Believe it or not, we’re finding some of them aren’t old enough to be cited,” he said.

Board member Leslie Ross said with the influx of newcomers, perhaps parents new to the area aren’t familiar with “how we do things here and our rules.” She brought up having a “parent night” to go over laws and rules for parents to know the community expectations.

Van Doorne said that’s been discussed, but that those meetings often end up turning out as preaching to the choir — “The parents that really care about it aren’t the ones that come. That’s an unfortunate part of that thing but it’s true,” he said.

The Dickinson Police Department and the school district have applied for grant funding to hire an additional school resource officer. Currently, Van Doorne struggles to adequately patrol both the high school and Hagen Junior High, he said. The department and board will hear back about the grant late this year. If funded, the second position would likely take effect after the 2014-15 winter break. The grant would fund three years of the position, and then the school district would have to absorb the cost.

“I think we all know that the need is there for it,” Van Doorne said of another resource officer.

Superintendent Doug Sullivan said the district incorporated expanding the safety and school resource officer programs into its strategic growth plan.

Board President Kris Fehr noted she would like to see an officer from the community.

“It is getting tougher and tougher to have just one resource officer conducting business in all the schools,” Van Doorne said. “I’m losing my edge.”

In other news, Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep told the board that the bid opening for the Prairie Rose Elementary School will be July 23. He said he’s received blueprints from the project architects.

“Hopefully we see some good bids so that we can receive board approval at the August meeting for those bids and start work immediately afterwards,” he said.

The $2.5 million expansion, developed by Hulsing and Associates architect Jan Prchal, who worked on the initial designs for the one-year-old school, will add six classrooms, an office area for the vice principal and a multi-purpose room onto the existing structure, The Press previously reported.

Also Monday, the board re-elected Fehr as president for another term, and re-elected Jason Hanson as vice president. Ross was originally nominated as vice president, but declined the nomination, offering current vice president Hanson instead, so that a newer board member gets leadership experience, she said. Ross joined the board in 2004 while Hanson joined in 2010.