When Starpoint Middle School students return to school in September, there will be a full-time police officer in their midst.
District grant writer Maggie Cattarin said the officer will be retained, thanks to a $75,000 state grant to maintain security, reduce truancy and attempt to eradicate incidents of bullying.
The officer will be a deputy from the Niagara County Sheriff's Department and will serve as a school resource officer for the 2006-07 school year.
Starpoint High School already has such an officer.
Cattarin said the grant was awarded after the sheriff's department, the Town of Pendleton and the school district submitted a grant application, which she helped put together.
She said the state Bureau of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention notified the district earlier this month that the grant was being awarded for the middle school Starpoint Truancy Offensive Program.
"We haven't received the money yet, but we were notified we're getting it," she said.
With the grant money, the sheriff's department can assign a full-time deputy to the school to maintain security and perform other duties.
"[The deputy] could even seize drugs or make arrests if it ever came to that," or escort people who don't belong in the school out of the building; even help deal with student-related problems, Cattarin said.
To step up security this year, the board has students and personnel wear identification tags inside the middle and high schools, so students and staff can easily notice whether somebody does not belong there.
The resource officer will work with counselors and social workers to resolve problems, Cattarin said. She said the officer also will run a Blue Print Bullying Prevention Program designed to stamp out bullying and cut down on truancy.
"That's because statistics show the majority of students who are truant and missing a significant amount of school time due to absences have been bullied at school or are the bullies," she said.
Truant students also will be offered incentives to improve their attendance, including extra help or classes tailored to specific needs and interests.
For example, "If they would like to learn to play the guitar or piano, we may be able to arrange it," Cattarin said. "But to continue to receive those lessons, they must maintain acceptable attendance levels."