School Resource Officers focus on relationship building this school year

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 10:12 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Like any new school year, it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

Add in masks, social distancing and a two-group, alternating-days schedule, and there’s much less consistency.

”My primary goal is to make sure the kids are behaving safely, people in the building belong in the building, doors are locked,” said Victoria Schmitt, the SRO for Northside High School in Roanoke County.

Schmitt is one of the few constants.

“They’re going to see me more consistently than let’s say a road officer, where they may interact once or twice in their lifetime; they’re going to see me the whole school year.”

Headed into this school year, though, there was pushback across the country, and even in Roanoke on having officers in schools.

In August, the group No Justice, No Peace Roanoke held a “Cops Out of Schools” event.

Sgt. Dan Walters says he couldn’t imagine life without officers in schools.

“Me being the sergeant over the program, I never really see a complaint come through my desk, where they’re complaining about an officer or the actions that they’ve taken; it’s always been positive,” said Walters.

Right now that positivity looks like a fist bump rather than a hug. For Schmitt, the best conversations have nothing to do with policing.

“You know, come and talk about their new job over the summer or that they just opened up their first bank account,” said Schmitt.

And while the role hasn’t changed much this year, the burden of the responsibility of the position is even greater.

“It’s not so much as a standoff relationship when the student comes into contact with an officer outside of school. We’re not there to attack them, to scare them, we’re there as someone there to protect them,” said Walters.

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