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School safety aided by resource team and Greenville Police Dept.

Attorney General Troy King recently awarded Greenville High School the Alabama Safe Schools Initiative 2005 Award of Excellence.

In an assembly held on Sept. 16, King praised GHS for its collaborative efforts in providing a safe learning environment for its students. GHS had been selected by an independent panel of law enforcement and emergency response officers, teachers and school administrators this summer from among 32 nominations. Eight schools received the award throughout the state of Alabama.

However, all of this did not come about without a lot of work from several different people.

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram began the School Resource Officer Program in the early to mid-90s. It was funded by a federal grant known as the "Cops in Schools" program or COPS.

"With those federal grants, we received enough money for the salaries and benefits of the police officers we had in the schools," Ingram said. "We also had an officer assigned to the Board of Education to help with truancy and to work with the juvenile courts and the judges in order to keep kids in school."

The first school resource officer was Lt. Ezell Powell. He was placed at the old Greenville High School on School Highlands Road, and later, another police officer was placed in Greenville Middle School.

However, many federal programs have been cut, and that money has been directed back to Homeland Security. The "Cops in Schools" program was one that was eliminated in 2004.

"On Oct. 1, 2004, Mayor Dexter McLendon and the City of Greenville absorbed all of the costs for the school resource officer program," Ingram said. "They also fund the D.A.R.E Program, which is the Drug Education and Prevention Program. The mayor is committed to keeping our police officers in our schools. Without the support of the mayor and the Greenville City Council, we wouldn't be able to have our school resource officers nor the D.A.R.E. program."

Officer Lamar Grayson is the D.A.R.E. or Drug Education and Prevention officer who serves all of the Butler County schools, and Officer Brian Mosley is the Greenville Middle School resource officer. Lt. Anthony Barganier is the Community Resource officer.

Working in conjunction with Chief Ingram is Cpl. Malcolm Owens, who is the School Resource officer at Greenville High School, and who is the one responsible for completing all of the paperwork for the Alabama Safe Schools Initiative Award of Excellence.

Owens, who has a B.S. degree in post-secondary education/psychology from Athens State University, has been the resource officer at GHS since 2000.

"I have one foot in the Greenville Police Department and one foot in school," Owens said. "People might get a negative impression when they see a police car in front of the school, but we do a lot of other things in addition to security."

"Chief Ingram put an officer in the schools several years ago for security reasons, to teach law-related classes, and to conduct parent conferences," he said. "But we do a whole lot more than just patrol the halls."

According to Owens, the school resource officers provide escorts for all athletic teams and events, both in and out of town. They monitor all on-campus deliveries and shipments, and work with school counselors to calm students in the event of a family crisis.

"Those are just a few of the things we do," Owens said. "You must have a love for the kids in order to do this. We are helping to prepare them for the future."

Owens said that he appreciates the countywide effort that is put into the entire school resource officer program.

"I appreciate the Greenville Police Department, the parents, the neighbors and anyone who stops and talks with me about the kids and their problems," he said.

Chief Ingram said that he is extremely proud of Cpl. Owens and of all the hard work he has done to get the attorney general's Safe Schools Initiative Award of Excellence.

"I appreciate Cpl. Owens, the faculties and staffs at both Greenville High School and Greenville Middle School," Ingram said. "All of these people work together to help keep our kids safe on a daily basis."