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Police seen improving high school

LOCKPORT -- Officials say there has been significant improvement in safety at Lockport High School in the last few years, thanks to a partnership between the district and the Lockport Police Department.

Officer Scot Snaith of the Lockport Police Department has been present in the high school since the 2007-08 school year, as part of a two-year grant.

"The past two years we've had Scot, we're seen some pretty dramatic improvement," Assistant Principal Todd Sukdolak said Wednesday at the Lockport School Board meeting. "The presence alone has changed the temperament in the building."

One of Snaith's main roles has been prevention and intervention, to maintain a safe environment in the school and to make students more aware of the consequences of their actions.

When he first started at the school, many students were unaware that they could be arrested for fighting, he said.

"They're advised of the rules. You let them know this is how things work and yes, you can get arrested," he said. "I think they thought twice about it."

The total number of out-of-school suspensions decreased from 135 to 102 from 2006 to 2009. "That's pretty good for a school our size," Sukdolak said, noting the high school has about 1,700 students.

The school has also seen a steady decrease in the number of altercations, assaults and drug- and alcohol-related incidents. The number of fights decreased from 17 in 2006 to seven in 2009. The school also has seen a decline in the number of threats and thefts.

The number of incidents involving weapons decreased from three in 2006 to two in 2009, with no serious weapon-related incidents, Sukdolak said. "Even if a kid brings a pocketknife by accident we count that as a weapon," he said.

Snaith has helped parents keep their children in the classroom by making home visits to students who were refusing to go to school, though it is not an official part of his job.

"I tell the parents I'll do whatever I can to help," he said. "The kid usually gives me a hard time, but the parents get the gist, too, that they need to do their part."

Snaith has helped parents get more involved in their child's education and explained to students the consequences of not going to school. "Whatever we can do to get the kids into school to get an education, I'll do my part," he said.

A very small percentage of students cause most of the problems at the high school, officials said. "What [Snaith] is doing is reaching out to them and saying, 'We care, " said board member Edward Sandell. "Somebody's noticing."

Snaith is also on hand to give students another person to talk to. "Kids approach me with problems," he said. "I think the kids have accepted me very well. They feel free to talk to me."

Snaith has a role in the classroom as well, speaking to special education, business law and participation-in-government classes about law-related topics.

Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone said the information provided by Snaith and Sukdolak was "powerful."

"We are in the process right now of finalizing a contract with the school district and the police department, and it will be brought before the board for approval so we can keep Officer Snaith on board," she said.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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