FALLSBURG — The Town of Fallsburg Police Department has reassigned Martin Gonzalez from his duties as Fallsburg Central School District's School Resource Officer (SRO).
Gonzalez, who found heroin inside a men's bathroom at the Benjamin Cosor Elementary School in Fallsburg last month, remains a police officer with the department. A previous NYS Medal of Valor awardee for a 2011 rescue effort in Liberty, Gonzalez is not accused of any wrongdoing and is not under investigation, said Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams.
Calling it “the toughest decision of my life,” Williams said Gonzalez is being replaced for the sake of the SRO program.
At Monday's Fallsburg Town Board meeting, a group of teachers told town officials that they no longer trust Gonzalez and criticized the way the police had handled the heroin investigation, which focused on more than half a dozen faculty who had accessed the bathroom prior to the drug discovery.
“When you have the entire teaching staff saying there's no trust and no communication, how is the program going to be successful?” said Williams yesterday.
“I believe in the SRO program, as I was once an SRO myself,” he added. “... The program and the kids are suffering.”
In a letter to parents, Fallsburg School Superintendent Ivan Katz agreed.
“I have met at length with Chief Williams regarding this decision, and I support it,” Katz wrote. “Earlier ... the Fallsburg Town Supervisor, Steve Vegliante, said that the school district, the town board and the police chief take very seriously the important role of a School Resource Officer. In order for that important role to be successful, there has to be continued strong communication between staff and the School Resource Officer Program. Supervisor Vegliante is absolutely correct. Our shared responsibility is the safety of all children in our school district.”
Williams said he and the district will work together to select a new SRO. Till then, Fallsburg police officers will rotate through the elementary school, ensuring at least one officer is present during the hours children are there.