Every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on the years I had the privilege of teaching and coaching and am grateful for the excitement of the new school year that lingers, even in retirement. As an educator, there’s nothing like the rush of welcoming new students in the classroom and aiming to help them succeed over the course of their time in your class.
One of the things I have been pleased with as a councilman is the priority we have placed on keeping our students, teachers and school administrators safe at school. Our School Resource Officers (SROs) have been a key component of that, and while they have been active in many St. Charles County schools for several years, we were able to allocate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to place 23 of our County Police Department officers in all the schools in unincorporated County through this next school year.
Why SROs? They provide a uniformed presence if action is needed against an intruder or any acts of violence. They are trained in de-escalating situations, and the fact that they are on their school’s campus every day means they are not a stranger to students and staff and can identify when something is out of the norm that may be of concern. SROs are there to protect, but also to build relationships.
I am grateful for our SROs and the opportunities they bring to the classroom. The START program (START stands for Substance Tobacco Alcohol Resistance Training) is especially for fifth and sixth grade students, and it’s a special nine-week curriculum our police department tailored to focus on the issues our students face at this age in our area: not just substance and alcohol abuse, but topics such as peer pressure, bullying and digital citizenship as well.
For all our students, SROs interact in the hallways and at lunch and recess, allowing the officers to engage with students and build trust if a student finds they need to share something difficult and important with an adult.
As a former teacher, this connection with students is one of the most vital to offer: To provide a safe, encouraging space to learn, grow and excel. We all have the duty to participate and do what we can to foster that environment. I am glad we have our SROs who can be a positive impact for our schools and hope we can continue to find ways to do that in the future.