School security

Resource officer added to West Iron staff

West Iron eighth-grade students, from left, Eli Anderson, Jason Cronkright and Ryker Lesniak talk with School Resource Officer Doug Weesner, right, during their gym class. (Nikki Younk/Daily News photo)

IRON RIVER — Violence in schools across the country has prompted a number of districts to improve security, including adding a police presence on site.

West Iron County Schools in Iron River is the latest to follow that trend, after the school board decided to contract with the Iron County Sheriff’s Department to bring in School Resource Officer Doug Weesner.

“Protecting students is something we could afford and want to provide,” West Iron Middle/High School Principal Mike Berutti said.

The district will cover the roughly $48,000 annual cost of the position from its general fund, Berutti said.

The timing was perfect for Weesner, who had just retired in August as a trooper with the Michigan State Police-Iron Mountain Post. He’s lived in Iron County for years and had two children go through the West Iron County Schools system.

School Resource Officer Doug Weesner walks the halls at West Iron County Schools on his second week of duty. (Nikki Younk/Daily News photo)

Iron County Sheriff Mark Valesano approached Weesner about the school resource officer position, and subsequently hired him as a part-time, seasonal deputy whose sole function is to work in West Iron’s elementary, middle and high schools Monday through Friday during the school year.

But Weesner isn’t just there to provide school security; he said he also will foster relationships with students and eventually teach classes on personal and school safety.

“It’s important for students to see officers as normal people,” Weesner said. “I’m really looking forward for the opportunity to interact with students.”

Weesner already has introduced himself to some classes and had lunch with students.

He said he also has heard positive feedback from parents about the district’s decision to add a school resource officer.

Jim Pellizzer, a school staff member and parent, agreed, saying Weesner’s presence “definitely brings safety to the building.”

Other local school districts also have explored the idea of a school resource officer or school liaison officer.

Breitung Township Schools last academic year started providing office space in Kingsford High School for Kingsford Public Safety officers in an effort to make them more accessible to students.

The Iron Mountain City Council earlier this year approved a tax proposal for the November ballot to restore funding for a liaison officer at Iron Mountain Schools.

The Norway City Council last month passed similar November ballot language for a school resource officer at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools, but not all municipalities in the school district approved. The measure could go on a future ballot.