“If you want to get into law enforcement and make a difference in kids’ lives, being a School Resource Officer is the way to do it,” says Officer Avrie Schott of the La Crosse (Wisc.) Police Department. Schott is a ten-year police veteran. Five of those years have been spent as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Lincoln Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She describes the school as a “little city,” where she walks the halls and makes many positive contacts in a day, while she attempts to get to know as many kids as possible.
Making a Difference
“This pays off when they are in crisis. They trust you and will come to you,” reasoned Officer Schott. For example there was the time a girl came into her office on the first day of school. It was a girl, who Schott had developed a rapport with and the middle school student sat down and confided that she had been experiencing repeated sexual assaults by a guardian. Officer Schott conducted an investigation and was able to arrest the suspect, ending the torment the young lady was enduring.
Opportunities to Be Proactive
As a School Resource Officer, Schott has found an opportunity to be proactive. She has been able to teach Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) to six graders, educate seventh graders on over the counter drugs and prescription drugs as well as Constitutional Law to eighth graders. She explains to them why police have the authority to do what they do and how they should react appropriately when stopped by the police.
“I have given presentations on inappropriate touching and ‘sexting’.” This, as we sadly now know, is the current practice of kids sending nude and semi-nude photos of themselves from cell phone to cell phone. Many kids do not know that when they send a nude picture of themselves over the internet that they can be charged with distributing child pornography,” explained Officer Schott.
Real Police Work
Officer Schott says that some people think that being an SRO “is not real police work.” She has found this opinion to be untrue. She explained that schools are like “little cities.” The halls and lots are her streets and she has had to break up fights, investigate crimes, and respond to incidents where an officer is needed; much like working as a patrol officer. She also has been able to address the root problems of kids at a critical age, when they are “apt to listen,” as she puts it.
Instead of just writing a truancy ticket, she will often go to the home and find out why the child is truant. She has discovered that at times it has been because there have been problems directly related to the parents such as violence and abuse.
A School Resource Officer’s daily contacts are powerful — the SRO is not only a protector and provider of safety, but a role model for many kids who sometimes have no other positive role models in their lives.
One ethics instructor who does an exercise in his Academy Ethics Classes where he asks recruits to name role models in their life says, “In nearly every class I have done this exercise in, someone has named a School Resource Officer. Some of those recruits confided later that they had come from a violent home and the school resource officer had made the difference in their life.”
A Dangerous World
School Resource Officers are being contacted by students all over the country daily, not only because of their convenience, but also because of the relationship they have established based on respect and trust. During these contacts, they are told of impending fights, incidents of abuse, and the location of drugs and guns in the school.
In September of 2006, a student became concerned and reported information to the Vice Principal and School Resource Officers at the Green Bay East High School. Three students were ultimately arrested and during search warrants police found their rifles, their sawed off shotgun, 20 “rudely constructed explosive devices,” gas masks and their plans written out in detail predicting a blood bath at the High School, which was thwarted.
The 2010 graduating senior class of Bridgewater-Rariton High School in New Jersey gave an appreciation award to their School Resource Officer Arthur Akins, who is a 16-year veteran of the Bridgewater Police Department. They felt some of their class may not have made it to graduation if Officer Akins would not have followed up on a text message, brought to his attention by a concerned student. He immediately located the student, who sent the message.
During an interview the student told him, “I want to commit a Columbine.” The student had purchased chains and locks for the school exits to increase the victim count in his planned attack. The student even admitted that a part of the plan was to cut Officer Akins’ throat. The student was taken into custody and has been sentenced to three years in the New Jersey School for Boys in Jamesburg.
Officer Schott explains that this is an example of what can happen when a School Resource Officer and educators “work as a team.”
Officer Schott says about the position of School Resource Officer, “It’s not for everyone,” but confirms that if the job suits you, “it is one job you can love!”