For the first time in its history, Carroll County will have a School Resource Officer (SRO) in its elementary schools beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.
During the June 25 meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, the board unanimously approved a motion to fund an SRO in its elementary schools. The position will be funded through the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office’s Highway Safety Funds.
“The School Resource Officer program has been a really positive thing,” Carroll Supervisor Bob Martin said after the vote to approve the position. “It’s not to get the kids in trouble, it’s keeping the kids out of trouble, advising them and being a friend.”
Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson said the SRO program has been a huge success since now-Sheriff J.B. Gardner was installed as the first SRO officer at Carroll County High School in 1997-98. An SRO officer was added at Carroll County Intermediate School a few years later, and both schools have continued to have an officer since that time. Dickson said the thought behind having an SRO officer in the elementary schools was to reach youth at an earlier age.
“Hopefully they will realize police is not our enemy, they are good people. They will try to instill that in them and keep them off of drugs, anything not good for their health. That is the main purpose of this,” Dickson said. “We can start working at the intermediate and high schools, but if they have already started doing some of those things it is a little harder to reach them. I think this is a good thing and a needed program. I believe we will see improvement in the years to come.”
Gardner said the position has been advertised and he is currently looking for the right person for the job. While Carroll County has had DARE officers in the elementary schools part-time since the late Hassell Vass was Sheriff back in the 1980s, Gardner believes a full-time SRO officer in the elementary schools will be a tremendous asset for the county’s youth.
“We’ve never had one assigned full time, and sometimes you just need to be in the schools working. This a little more intensive,” Gardner said. “They will be at the schools regularly.”
The new SRO officer will be a roving position, Gardner said, to serve set times at each of the county’s elementary schools at certain times and certain days. Like Dickson, he believes the new SRO position will benefit elementary school students throughout Carroll County.
“Absolutely, the whole purpose is for the kids, to make the students’ lives better. I absolutely enjoyed it more than any job I have ever done,” Gardner said. “I did more counseling than I did anything else when I served as an SRO officer, just talking to them about life stuff. You do more of that than anything and it’s crazy, but parents can relate to it, they will tell a stranger something they won’t tell their parents. I think it will be a good thing.”