Resource officers more vital than ever in today’s schools

By on June 3, 2018

Cape Hatteras Elementary’s Super School Surprise Patrol recently ambushed Resource Officer Aaron Felton. “We love your smile, kind words, the safety and protection we feel with you as part of our school family. We Love Our SRO!” the students wrote on Facebook.

Dare County’s School Resource Officer program has been around for several years, but many parents are not sure what to do if they feel they need to report a problem involving their child or a school in general.

Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a recent interview with the Voice that resource officers are working on that very issue. He also said they have been working on some other new procedures and programs.

Doughtie was joined in the discussion by Nags Head Police Chief Kevin Brinkley and Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole.

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Dare County is one of only four districts out of 115 in North Carolina with a resource officer in every school.

While the Dare County Sheriff’s Office covers most of them, the Nags Head Police Department handles the duties at Nags Head Elementary School, while Southern Shores provides the officer at Kitty Hawk Elementary.

The program took on a new urgency after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in 2012, when the program was extended to elementary schools. High schools and middle schools were already assigned SROs at the time.

Kole began the discussion by noting the cooperation between Dare County Schools and law enforcement in making the program a success. He commended school Superintendent John Farrelly for supporting the program and playing an active role with everyone involved.

Farrelly became superintendent last July, and all three officers gave him high marks for jumping right into the SRO program and working closely with law enforcement.

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Doughtie noted that he, along with Kole and Brinkley, had recently met with Arty Tillett, the school system’s Chief Academic Officer, to discuss the subject of communicating to students and parents the role of the SRO and how to tell them about real or potential problems.

Parents who might perceive a problem at a school, such as a suspicion their child might be a victim of bullying,  should feel free to communicate directly with the SRO or the school principal.

Ideally, the first line of communication should be with the principal, who will then relay information to the SRO, even if it’s not a criminal matter.

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However, parents aware of criminal actions should contact the SRO directly.

“The SRO can best determine if the matter requires law enforcement attention or can be handled disciplinary through the school’s administration,” Brinkley said.

Doughtie emphasized that all parents should feel comfortable contacting the SRO about their concerns. He noted that incidents at bus stops, on buses and at activities come under the purview of the SRO and extend beyond the school day and the school building.

Doughtie said parents should feel free to contact the Dare County Sheriff’s Office after school hours.

“While school offices are closed after hours, somebody at the Sheriff’s Office is around to take a call or have a message relayed to us.” Doughtie said.

The officers were eager to announce one new policy that emerged from the meeting with Tillett.

“We’re going to set up a database with all the SROs. And an e-mail system where if things happen in one school it will be communicated to all SROs in all three areas, the Sheriff’s Office, Nags Head and Southern Shores,” Kole said.

The school system also pledged at the beginning of the next school year to hold a meeting with principals, administrators and SROs “to make sure we’re all on the same page and we share all information. The most important asset is the children, but we can’t do something about something if we don’t know about it,” Kole added.

Click the photo to learn more about the resource officers. (DCSO)

Another change at the start of the next school year will be to make sure every student and as many parents as possible have their SRO’s phone number.

“We will give out the number and introduce the officer at the first assembly in each school at the start of the year,” Doughtie said. “We will then go the first PTO meeting of the year and bring the SRO officer and do the same thing for the parents. Not only will they have the SRO’s business card, they’ll have mine as well,” he added.

Doughtie said some people tell him they don’t want to bother calling the sheriff, but he wanted to make sure parents know they can call him. “That’s part of the job; that’s what we’re here for,” he said.

For the future, Doughtie hopes to expand the SRO program to get feedback from non-SRO officers.

He referred to a program called Helping Hands in West Virginia. Under that program, if a student has something happen after school hours, such as a police call to his or her residence as a result of an altercation between the parents, the responding police officers will report immediately the details of the incident to the student’s SRO.

That way the SRO can inform faculty and staff that the student may or may not be present, or if present, dealing with issues from the incident between his parents. If Social Services was involved, that information will also be related.

Details are still being ironed out, with a planned pilot period next school year. The program will also bring back a long-lost term in school parlance, tracking truancy.

The program will involve Social Services as well as law enforcement and the SRO.

Comments

  • Right Hook

    Outstanding proactive approach to school safety! Commendable multi agency
    cooperation, focus and communication. We are a truly blessed community with exemplary leadership and resources. On behalf of our children, families and school staff: THANK YOU!

    Monday, Jun 4 @ 7:44 am
  • Weekend Worker

    What’s wrong with your school system if you need cops in it!!

    Thursday, Jun 7 @ 6:38 am
  • manteoer

    Weekend Worker: Nothing wrong, but a proactive approach which builds great community relations with the cops and the students.

    We have had them in most schools for over a decade and now in every school. When I was in school it was always nice to see a cop in a manner in which it was not the law enforcement officer, but rather a more community oriented position that was in the school to be mentor, role model, liaison to staff, friend to all and law enforcement officer at last resort.

    Thursday, Jun 7 @ 2:01 pm
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