Schools impeding ORPD, City says

By Russel Langley

A memorandum from Oak Ridge Chief of Police James Akagi to City Manger Mark Watson dated May 9, 2013, and entitled “Guiding Principles for SRO Deployment,” makes some fairly serious accusations against Oak Ridge School officials.

The memo was obtained from Oak Ridge City Council Member Trina Baughn and accompanied an open letter to Oak Ridge Schools (ORS) Superintendent Dr. Bruce Borcher written by Baughn regarding the subject.

In the memorandum Akagi accuses ORS staff of failing to report potential crimes to the ORPD in a timely manner and in some cases not at all. Criminal investigations must take precedence over ORS administrative policies and procedures, Akagi said. In some cases ORS staff have seized evidence and taken statements from victims, witnesses, and suspects without regard to legal requirements, the police chief said.

“Everything they do is useless and possibly damaging to the prosecution in a criminal case,” Akagi said regarding evidence and statements.

Communication is the primary contentious issue over the past year between ORPD and ORS Akagi said. Reluctance, and in some instances obstructive behaviors, has hampered police investigations Akagi said.

On the back of the memorandum Watson listed nine generic incidents of obstruction and one specific instance. In the specific instance two sets of parents went to The Oak Ridge High School and assaulted one another. This altercation lead to the assault of the lone School Resource Officer at the high school.

No assistance was provided by school officials according to Watson. That incident happened in the last school year.

It was also listed that ORS concerns about potential violations of the Family Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) made staff reluctant to share information. These concerns have lead to the practice that information must be cleared by higher level school officials before it can be released even to the police, according to what Watson wrote.

Watson referenced the Virginia Tech Shooting concerning the need for privacy versus safety.

“Privacy rules prevented that psychiatrist from notifying school officials that this guy was a danger,” Watson said.

Akagi and Watson want to be proactive concerning school safety. The city intends to work closely with ORS to “hammer things out” and be proactive, Watson said. An SRO is much more than a school security guard and needs to be used to their fullest potential, he argued.

Called for a response, Borcher said that he was listening and learning during his first few weeks on the job, he said during a phone interview. He admitted that he had very little knowledge of the allegations in the memo but that he had met with Watson and looked forward to a coming meeting with Akagi.

“I am very open and want to work with city officials and parents to make this the safest school district possible,” Borcher said.

Borcher was provided with a copy of the memo and agreed to make more detailed comments regarding the situation in coming days. A follow up article will be conducted next week when Borcher has had time to look into the situation.

Also Watson has not had time to respond to the question why no ORS officials were arrested for obstruction of justice and that will be included in the follow up article.

(Editor’s Note: In an attempt to provide Borcher, Akagi, Watson, and the public with accurate information, we are asking that any parents that have had trouble at the schools that relates to this article are encouraged to email Russel Langley at russl68@gmail.com. Those stories could be included in coming articles with consideration given to space restrictions.)

Categories: Oak Ridge | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Schools impeding ORPD, City says

  1. Pingback: Oak Ridge Observer Article on ORS Police Interference | Trina Baughn

  2. I know of such things & while working as the High School Crossing Guard, when the new principal took charge I no longer had administrative support, & when Officer Staffney left as the resource officer, I was devastated. All support was officially over.

  3. Angi Agle

    I’m not sure about the “new principal” remark (he/she hasn’t been hired yet, so we don’t yet have one at this point in time), but would agree wholeheartedly that ORHS needs George Staffney back.

    In all his years as SRO, I don’t recall a single complaint of Officer Staffney being assaulted. He did a lot of good for a lot of kids, though!

    • Sam Hopwood

      George Staffney is a pretty good sized fellow and I think anyone would think twice before trying to assault him. Perhaps that had some bearing on the situation. I would put great creedence in the crossing guards comments. Those close to the situation know very well when they are getting support and when they are not. And yes, Jodi Goins was principal then.

  4. stephanie teffeteller

    i totally agree with Angi, Staffney really kept those kids in line my son being one of them , not a bad kid just has Aspergers and doesn’t like school but he’s still their,one more year, and had it not been for the staff and the fact that i know many of them personally since i have worked with many of them he may have ended up some place he doesn’t deserve to be at..There are times when the police need to be involved..and Angi I think Rhonda was referring to Mr.Goins.

  5. Yes, they DO need Officer Staffney back. I would even consider coming back for the afternoon dismissal, if Officer Staffney was the SRO. He did rounds everyday as soon as the students exited. He went through the parking lot, patrolled the turnpike over & over. I knew I could count on him & if I needed him, it wasn’t 5 minutes before he showed up. If I thought something out of the ordinary was happening, I could alert him & you knew he’d be on it.
    He knew the students, he had my back, & he remembered the ones who graduated or had dropped out of school or were on suspension & “talked to them” about staying off the campus. ORHS does need Officer Staffney!!!!

  6. Pingback: Mayor, Schools react to Trina Baughn’s column | The Oak Ridge Observer

  7. Pingback: Not in Our Schools Update | Trina Baughn

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