As summer ends, children and parents alike are thinking about the upcoming school year. Collective thoughts focus on new school clothes, supplies, seeing classmates again, meeting teachers, and similar.
At the same time, Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers (SRO) are getting ready for the school bell to sound where they will be reuniting with students and faculty.
School Resource Officers are a common sight in Lafourche Parish public schools. These officers interact with our children on a daily basis. Many times, it is the first contact kids have with law enforcement. In this structured setting, a unique rapport begins to build. This connection allows both SRO and students to become more familiar with one another over the course of the school year.
Although there is no national database or mandated SRO registries, in 2007 the Department of Justice estimated there were approximately 17,000 school resource officers across the United States. A more recent survey released in 2014 by the Department of Education shows out of 98,500 public schools nationally, 29,500 schools stated they had at least one SRO, and many reported having more than one.
We reached out to Lieutenant Brennan Matherne with LPSO to inquire on the number of SROs in Lafourche Parish.
“LPSO currently employs twenty deputies in the School Services Section. Four of these are primarily D.A.R.E. Officers but also assist as School Resource Officers. There is also one SRO assigned to the PASS Site. All Lafourche Parish Schools are ‘covered’. Each SRO works at a specific school but services more than one,” said Lt. Matherne.
When asked how LPSO chooses prospective SROs, Lt. Matherne stated, “SRO positions are like any other at the Sheriff’s Office. When a position becomes vacant/available, we announce the opening agency-wide. Applicants go through an interview process and chosen based on qualifications. Once selected, the SRO would attend a Basic SRO training course. The SROs also receive on-the-job training by working with an experienced SRO."
The SRO’s training allows Resource Officers to foster constructive, positive relationships, and maintain open communication with students. This allows the student to be more at ease and more likely to confide in the SRO when there are issues such as bullying or possible criminal mischief on school grounds. Moreover, with the rapport between SRO and student developed, it positively affects outcomes in situations arising, which may require SRO intervention.
Inevitably, students are more comfortable in their surroundings. This provides a safer learning environment allowing students to reach a higher potential educationally.
Another way SROs keep lines of communication open with students is by giving presentations to classes throughout the year. SROs often call upon other deputies within the agency to present specialized training presentations from time to time, such as drug awareness.
For young adult students, presentations may include information on careers in law enforcement for those interested in applying for LPSO’s Explorer Post 323. Youth between the age of fourteen and eighteen, who are in good standing within the community, can gain hands-on experience with the Sheriff's Department. Explorers assist deputies with many different community events such as event parking, the child ID program, and other deputy related functions.
The SRO activities do not end during summer break. Each year since his election twenty-five years ago, Sheriff Craig Webre holds an annual weeklong camp for kids who might otherwise not be able to have a summer camp experience. LPSO's Lieutenant Nolan Smith works in close collaboration with the Student Resource Officers and school counselors during the school year, to identify model students with good grades between the ages of ten and thirteen.
This year’s summer camp included twenty-six boys and twenty-six girls, Lt. Smith, all twenty School Resource Officers and four junior advisors from Explorer Post 323. The group traveled by bus to Bunkie, Louisiana.
The retreat gave SROs, the Sheriff’s Department, and students the ability to interact on a social level thereby allowing law enforcement to further their commitment to children. The summer camp not only builds trust between LPSO, SRO, and students but trust within the community as well.
A dedicated SRO is one who wears many hats. Not only an officer of the law but also a mentor, mediator, informal counselor and even a teacher of sorts. It takes a distinctive set of character traits to balance all those hats and therein lies a greater responsibility to be the best example or role model possible to impressionable youth.
If you have not made the acquaintance of your child’s School Resource Officer, take a moment to introduce yourself. SROs can offer a unique perspective where your child is concerned. They are not only there to walk the school halls to ensure safety but can also know your child in a mentors fashion.
For more information on LPSO school services or youth services please visit www. http://www.lpso.net/kids.
Posted on Tue, August 1, 2017
by By Holly McKeon Contributing Writer