School Resource Officer does more than patrol the hallways
MADAWASKA, Maine — As the Madawaska School Department’s school resource officer, Jamie Pelletier does more than just patrol the hallways at the Madawaska schools.
As the part-time SRO, Pelletier begins his day at 7:30 a.m. — well before the kids arrive — to plan out his day. An SRO helps keep a safe learning environment for students and staff, provides resources for students and staff and helps foster positive relationships with the students, according to former superintendent and current assistant superintendent for Valley Unified, Gisele Dionne.
For the students, Pelletier walks the halls to keep the students safe and bring a peace of mind.
“I try to get out in the hallways when I can, mingle say ‘hi’, make my presence known,” Pelletier said. “I will walk around the halls either at the bell or when in class, just so they know I am around.”
For the staff, Pelletier acts as a resource, whether it be for a classroom purpose, or for personal reasons.
“I am a resource for them. I am there to answer questions,” he said. “A lot of times it is a police-related question, sometimes for personal reasons.”
Pelletier also works with the school nurse who is in charge of truancy and often makes house visits to check on students who haven’t shown up at school or might be in a difficult situation at home.
When it comes to disciplining students, Pelletier has no hand in it.
“I am not a disciplinarian,” he said. “That is left up to the school administration. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t report something if I saw it, but discipline is not my place.”
He added that if a fight were to break out, he wouldn’t hesitate to help get the situation under control, but most cases of discipline are handled in-house by the school unless a state law is violated.
“There’s no clear line about what I do,” Pelletier said. “I am just there to help out anyone who needs it.”
The National Association of School Resource Officers lists that an SRO is an “unofficial counselor” for the school, to promote a positive image of law enforcement in school communities.
“At the secondary level, our SRO has been welcomed as an additional resource for our students who want to speak to an adult about their concerns, or who have questions about specific laws, etc.,” Dionne said. “Our SRO’s presence has greatly increased the presence of an official within our schools, whether he is in uniform or not, depending on his goals for the day. Our staff have commented that they also feel more secure knowing we have an SRO.”
Pelletier will have worked in the position for two years this coming March.
“It’s a different world today. None of the school violence events that have occurred elsewhere, in small and large schools or communities, were expected, nor could have been predicted,” Dionne said. “Our children are our biggest asset and it is our most important task to do everything in our power to protect them and to be prepared for any situation.”
School Committee Chairperson Bev Madore said that there were many ways that the school department has worked with the community to ensure the safety of all the students aside from having the SRO.
“The Madawaska School Committee has supported staff in their quest to increase safety in our facilities, as well as with training and emergency preparedness,” she said. “Funds have been dedicated, allowing us to become ALICE certified. Businesses in our community have also made donations to purchase security hardware for our bus fleet and buildings [in the form of cameras and radios for example).”
Above all, the SRO position is there to provide a safe space for the students and staff at the school.
“I like to be around the school in a positive and authoritative presence,” Pelletier said. “I want the kids to see me as the good guy, not the guy they need to be afraid of.”