AIKEN - A DARE officer in Aiken who spends her extra time monitoring elementary schools will be reassigned to middle schools for the rest of her week, city council members decided Monday.
Aiken Public Safety Officer Penny Lowe will continue teaching the drug abuse resistance education program to fifth-graders, but she will spend her other 32 hours in Aiken middle schools, where arrests have tripled in the past two years.
"There's not a lot of activity in the elementary schools, anyway," Public Safety Chief Pete Frommer told Aiken Council members during a work session. "I see her teaching DARE one day a week and spending the other four in the middle schools."
Council members agreed, including member and teacher Beverly Clyburn.
"Look at the size of middle school kids compared to elementary school kids," she said. "Teachers in middle school will tell you that the (middle school) kids are hormones walking around on two legs."
Arguing against Officer Lowe's reassignment, Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said he was concerned about jeopardizing the officer's positive influence at the elementary school.
"I think the reason we don't have any problems in the elementary school is because the officer is there," the mayor said. "I think if an officer can stop a problem in the elementary school, then it's going to stop it from going to the middle school or high school, perhaps."
The mayor suggested using another Aiken public safety officer to beef up the presence at middle schools, but Chief Frommer said that would take an officer from street patrol.
Teachers and counselors from Millbrook Elementary School sent three letters to the city, asking that the officer be allowed to spend more time at the school.
"I have used her assistance with home visits, emotionally disturbed students who were out of control and harassment from parents," kindergarten teacher Suzanne Redd wrote. "I have also had students to throw furniture which certainly resulted in them needing to be taken out of the classroom. Officer Lowe helped in these situations by remaining calm and being there to protect and help all my students."
Officer Lowe teaches DARE to Aiken and Chukker Creek elementary pupils during the fall and to Millbrook, North Aiken and South Aiken Baptist elementary pupils in the spring. Each class lasts an hour, and it continues for 17 weeks.
Statistics show crime increasing in the city's three middle schools: Kennedy, Aiken and Schofield. There were 80 criminal offenses reported to the school resource officer and 48 arrests during the 1999-2000 school year, compared to 24 criminal offenses and 16 arrests during the 1997-1998 school year.
The city council's decision to send Officer Lowe to the middle schools means she will join Public Safety Officer Joe Drayton, who already rotates his time among the three schools. The officers are partially funded through state grants awarded to the Aiken County Board of Education.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.