Redding has a School Resource Officer (SRO) at John Read Middle School and a School Security Officer (SSO) at Redding Elementary School. In Easton, there is one SRO who travels between Staples Elementary and Helen Keller Middle School. At this time, Joel Barlow has a civilian security staff but no SRO or SSO.
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) a school resource officer, by federal definition, is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department or agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools.
NASRO states that the goals of well-founded SRO programs include providing safe learning environments in schools, providing valuable resources to school staff members, fostering positive relationships with youth, developing strategies to resolve problems affecting youth and protecting all students, so that they can reach their fullest potentials. NASRO considers it a best practice to use a “triad concept” to define the three main roles of school resource officers: educator (i.e. guest lecturer), informal counselor/mentor, and law enforcement officer.
An SRO is a full time active police officer. Outside of the school year, the Redding SRO returns to patrol.
An SSO is usually a retired police officer. They are required to become certified by the state by taking an 8 hour course annually (CT Statute 29-161q.) The SSO is an hourly employee who receives no benefits. Because of their part time status, they work 4 days per week. In Redding, patrol officers cover the role on a rotating basis on the 5th day. Their position is focused on school security.
photo: Christopher Burns
Diane MacLean is a Redding resident who works as an SRO in a neighboring town. MacLean went to the Police Academy and became a Community Police Officer. She has worked as an SRO for the past three years.
She covers grades K-8, working closely with her counterpart in the high school. In her town, the SRO’s are nicknamed “Officer Friendly,” a moniker leftover from a nationwide community engagement program from the 1980s.
In order to become an SRO, she took 36 hours in training, above her standard police groundwork and must take an 8 hour class yearly to recertify. She stressed that SROs are extensively trained in handling every kind of situation. The firearms simulations presented to them contain both shoot and no shoot scenarios. This not only teaches them how to manage the situation, but also helps them control their adrenaline so they could make the best possible decisions in split second real life danger.
MacLean is caring and committed to her young charges. She has developed age appropriate programs that are constantly updated. Officer Friendly starts with grade 2 students who learn about Stranger Danger. As the grades progress, she adds bullying, peer pressure, Internet safety and good citizenship. By 6th grade she teaches 3 day courses in internet safety.
When not teaching a course, she is getting to know the students, earning their trust, being a mentor and learning about their interests and concerns.
Do your kids have a “finsta?” That’s a fake Instagram account that they use for people they don’t want to see their real account. MacLean keeps up with the trends and abbreviations so common in teen language.
MacLean said that kids feel comfortable confiding in Officer Friendly. They find it easier to speak to someone other than a parent or teacher.
She is delighted when she runs into a student when she is off duty and that make a point of coming over to greet her and introduce her to their family.
Teachers have the responsibility of instructing, administrators and counselors have their own roles as well. MacLean stresses how important the specific training received by the SRO differentiates them from the other professionals in the school. She said that it is the partnership between the SRO, teachers and staff that make it all work. Its their job to bridge the gap and pull it all together.
Students learn that these uniformed professionals can be trusted and respected. They are also more likely to refrain from questionable behavior knowing these officers are around. Drugs, vaping, alcohol, bullying have all been curtailed because of their presence.
SROs and SSOs are both armed. As trained police officers, a large part of their jobs is to provide security. They help run the school drills, design protocols and train school personnel. They are trained on what to do if an armed intruder enters the school but they can’t be everywhere. But, if they have done their job correctly, they have trained the rest of the school on what to do and not do.
Diane MacLean and her husband have two daughters at Barlow. She is very concerned that the school does not have this important component in their safety arsenal. She is also a proponent of having a Redding / Easton safety committee made up of a combination of teachers, parents, law enforcement and students, potentially rounded out with local retired security and law enforcement professionals.
To find out more about NASRO, click here to read their numerous articles and information about school safety.
Please come to the Safety Forum: Tuesday February 27 at 7:30 at Barlow.
A Portland Avenue condo fire was contained to one unit with the hard work of the Georgetown Fire Department. Assisting fire departments were West Redding, Redding Fire & EMS Company #1, Ridgefield, Wilton and Weston. Bethel Fire Department was on standing by for town coverage.
The fire contained to single unit. There were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.