Tuesday marked an exciting new chapter for the Van Buren School District (VBSD) and its commitment to student safety. VBSD welcomed six new School Resource Officers (SRO) on February 19, making it the first time in the district’s history to have a full-time SRO on every campus.

VBSD has long-employed SROs, but made the decision to equip each school with its own officer at a Board of Education meeting last spring. Previously, SROs have split their time between nearby campuses, limiting the number of hours they could be on-site at each school.

“Having a dedicated SRO at each school is a win for everyone,” said VBSD Deputy Superintendent Brian Summerhill. “Not only can officers now focus entirely on students and staff at one site, but they will have more time to engage with kids and provide important programming.”

SROs do more than help increase overall security on campus. Their presence also promotes a positive view of law enforcement. “Our SROs do everything from greet students in the morning to implementing age-appropriate safety programs,” explained Summerhill. “The officers know students by name and interact with them between classes, at games, and in the cafeteria. For some children, these SROs are well aware of the challenging situations they face at home and as a result, the officers provide an extra level of support to teachers and counselors.”

Several of the district’s SROs have become familiar faces in the school and community. In 2017, a video of Officer George Edelen leading King Elementary students in the “Wiggle Dance” went viral. The clip received more than 124,000 views. “Such experiences help forge good relationships between the police and students. The goal is that kids will feel more comfortable talking with the authorities, especially if they are in need or have to report something concerning.”

SROs frequently give informative and entertaining presentations about topics ranging from cyber safety to smart trick-or-treating. They often utilize fun props and their remote-control unit, “P.C.,” who flashes lights and talks with students on behalf of the police. At the holidays, the SROs help ensure local families have what they need by distributing food and picking out gifts through “Shop with a Cop.”

Van Buren’s hiring of new officers is the latest advancement toward strengthening school security and helping students feel safe on campus. Buzz-in systems, check-in management software, and video monitoring are among the tools school officials use to help monitor visitors. Such technologies provide additional support to staff and the SROs on a daily basis.