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Troopers to be cut from class

Story Published: Feb 6, 2008 at 8:56 PM EST

Story Updated: Feb 7, 2008 at 9:36 AM EST

By Melanie Pritchard

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Parents across New York have new worries tonight about the safety of their children in school. That's because nearly 100 state troopers that patrol the hallways in dozens of school districts are about to be reassigned under a plan by Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Trooper Chris Pyc spends his day talking with students in Grand Island. He's been the School Resource Officer here for six years. "I teach classes, provide law enforcement response here to the schools," said Pyc.

Governor Spitzer's plan to redeploy troopers from schools to high crime areas has district officials worried. "God forbid that something should happen in a school where Governor Spitzer has removed the SRO," said Grand Island Central School District Superintendent Robert Christmann.

7 News met with five district leaders from Western New York, all of whom share the same concerns -- that the lessons of Columbine and other school shootings may be forgotten. "We are na´ve think that if that visual doesn't wake you up to think that it can happen anywhere at any time, then we're in trouble," said Holland Central School District Superintendent Ben Halsey.

Akron Central School District Superintendent Robin Zymroz says "Where I would like for additional law enforcement to take place in the cities, I don't want it to be at the expense of school safety and security."

The students respect the troopers and appreciate their presence. "So you wouldn't feel as safe if the police weren't here. It's reassuring. You kind of intimidate people to.. Kind of behave better in school."

That better behavior is reflective in the numbers. "Our discipline rate in the high school has actually dropped 53 percent since the SRO program began," said Garry Stone, Superintendent of the Holland Central School District.

"It has been a terrific presentation of respect for law enforcement personnel," said Roger Klatt, Superintendent of Barker Central School District.

Trooper Pyc said, "That's one of the things a School Resource Officer does is provide a positive role model and I like to think I do that."

Grand Island High School Principal Sandy Anzalone worked at two districts without SRO's. She's amazed not only with Pyc's rapport with students, but the parents comfort level as well. "Parents who call on a legal question about MySpace, perhaps, or about drugs," said Anzalone.

These educators hope the Governor understands the importance of the SRO's and change his mind. "Without having our students feel safe it will have an impact on learning," said Christmann.

The Governor has the authority to redeploy the troopers without the state legislature's okay. School officials still hope members of the senate and assembly can convince Spitzer it's a bad idea. They're also asking the public to make calls and write letters to the Governor and their legislators in support of the trooper program.