Elementary school students will start growing accustomed to seeing law enforcement officers on campus with the beginning of a new program this week.
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner thinks that the new program, which will give 16 deputies additional responsibilities as part-time school resource officers, will make young children more comfortable around law enforcement and more likely to come forward with safety concerns.
“All of us — law enforcement, educators and parents — want children to look at officers in a positive way,” Tanner said. “A school resource officer can be a counselor and a mentor and a good role model.”
Resource officers have been stationed at the district’s middle and high schools since 1995, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Under the new program, uniformed deputies can be assigned to elementary schools at no additional expense by having them check in during their regular patrols.
“It’s unfortunate that young children often have a negative view of law enforcement,” said Jo Shirley, principal at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School. “If we can provide more positive and constructive experiences, that will be a very positive step.”
Acting Superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said that the new elementary school patrols will be an excellent addition to the district’s overall safety procedures, which include electronic admissions systems for visitors, keyless card access for staff, locked classroom doors during the instructional day, digital security cameras, updated emergency plans and emergency drills for all schools, exercises where school capabilities to respond to emergencies are evaluated, and ongoing cooperative relationships with law enforcement.