The president of the NT's peak body for public education is calling for the return of school-based police officers who have long been redeployed amid a focus on COVID-19 border closures.
However, the Northern Territory's borders have reopened and permanent school-based police officers are still absent from schools across the NT including Katherine - where students have sounded the alarm on a rise in fights and lockdowns.
Tabby Fudge, president of the NT Council of Government School Organisations, says, now half-way through term one, she is "deeply concerned at the lack of progress in returning school-based police to schools".
"It is a program that's for all of our students, there is not one school that needs it any more than another - it is about partnering for prevention and delivering key parts of the curriculum where appropriate for police to do so.
"Katherine's school-based police officer is really well loved and really well respected, and having that presence in the school can only be of help."
NT Police Commander David Proctor said: "in the absence of the school-based officer, local police in Katherine are available to provide support and response to the Katherine High School when required."
Last week on Wednesday, the Department of Education said it is aware of a rise in incidents at Katherine High School "and [is] supporting the school to effectively work with the students and families involved."
"Following further discussions with the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services, a school based police officer has returned to Katherine High School for an interim period to assist the school, students and local police in developing and implementing sustainable strategies," a Department of Education spokeswoman told the Katherine Times.
"It is important to highlight the school-based police officers are responsible for supporting teachers to deliver educational programs. The focus is on relationship building between students and police," she added.
"Incidents that require police assistance are managed by officers on duty in a community, not school based police officers."
The School-Based Police Program within the NT dates back to the early 1980's, following successful results seen overseas, Ms Tabby said.
"The program revolved around proactive and preventative policing through the building of relationships rather than the financially and socially expensive, traditional model of punitive measures," she said.
"The program was incredibly beneficial to our children and consequently to the wider community.
"After a decision by the Giles Government to cut the School-Based Police Program in 2013, NTCOGSO finally had the program returned for term four, 2018 and [the] school year 2019, with a total of thirteen officers in ten schools with middle years students.
"Following 2019 the school-based police were once again removed. This time to operations in Alice Springs from the start of school 2020. They were then placed on border control for the remainder of the 2020 school year."
Ms Tabby says the removal has decelerated the program's progress and put positive relationship building between youth, police and schools on the backfoot.
"Schools now find themselves back to the very beginning of advocating for the police program instead of reaping the rewards of a schools-police partnership to assist our children make positive life choices and have trusted police in their lives," Ms Tabby said.
"During the February sittings in Parliament the Police Minister, Nicole Manison confirmed her commitment to expanding the program and said having qualified police officers was very important.
"It is time to return the program and expand. An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure."
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