PHOENIX - Students returning to class at many Arizona schools this fall will find they no longer have an officer assigned to their campus as they once did.
A change in the way school resource officers are funded means 99 schools will be losing the officers whose everyday jobs range from breaking up fights and confiscating weapons to helping counsel troubled students.
The issue isn't a lack of money. The new system requires each school to outline why it needs to have the officers and how it plans to use them.
The school's application is then graded and given a score, and schools that score the highest get first dibs. Those denied funding have a chance to appeal.
Of the schools that applied this year, 212 won approval and 155 were denied, including 99 schools that got funding last year.
Many educators say school resource officers do more than ensure campus safety. The officers act as de facto counselors, adults that lend an ear to the students' concerns.
The loss of four officers at Phoenix's Alhambra Elementary School District, which had applied for five but got funding only for one, is "really going to be a detriment," said Linda Jeffries, community relations coordinator for the district.
Officer Rob Katzaroff, an officer at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, recalled an experience in which he helped one student go from being a drug addict to a graduate.
"(I) was able to help him refocus and get through high school, so he went from being close to expulsion to graduating from the largest high school in the district," Katzaroff said.
Foremost among the officers' duties is protecting students from harm or threats.
The Arizona Department of Education reported that eight out of 100 high school students it surveyed in 2007 "did not go to school on one or more of the past 30 days because they felt they would be unsafe at school or on their way to or from school." Nearly 3,100 students took part in the survey.
In addition, the department documented 20,574 incidents of bullying and 32,268 physical attacks without weapons at Arizona public schools during the 2006-07 school year.