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Lenawee Christian School hires school resource officers

This piece originally appeared in the Daily Telegram


Lenawee Christian School has taken what it calls a proactive approach in keeping its students safe.

On Feb. 3, the school introduced school resource officers to its campus. The armed officers walk the hallways, make sure entrances are secure and interact with students throughout the school day.

School resource officers had been an ongoing conversation at LCS. When another school shooting would make headlines, it would only reignite the conversation.

The addition of the officers is part of the school’s broader security plan, according to Jim Colman, CEO of Lenawee Christian Ministries.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult (to keep kids safe), and it takes more and more of a proactive approach to accomplish the safety we’re trying to provide for our students,” he said.

A letter was sent to parents ahead of the officers being introduced into the school. Colman said communication was a focus leading up to the roll out.

In his letter, he assured parents the decision was a proactive one. No threats or incidents at LCS prompted the hiring of security officers.

“We are very grateful there are very few things that rise to a level of severe,” Colman said. “There was nothing in the school or outside the school other than the world we see around us and a desire to be proactive.”

The primary job for the officers at LCS is student support. Officers move about the school during times of activity such as class changeover, lunch and recess.

Colman said officers are also tasked with helping students be more aware of security issues and how to address them.

Dustin Mohr is one of the resource officers. Mohr works for Great Lakes Security, the company the school has contracted with.

During lunch, Mohr talks with students and receives high fives in the cafeteria. When students go to recess he walks around the playground, chatting with students and teachers.

“Being seen is the biggest deterrent,” he said. ”... building relationships with kids is one of the biggest things.”

Students seemed comfortable around Mohr on the playground, waving and chatting while swinging on the swing set and playing in the snow.

Mohr and the other officers quickly became familiar faces — by design. Colman said they took the officers to each classroom on their first day to meet the students.

Mohr, who has prior experience as military police in the Army, applauded LCS for its forward thinking.

He is also a local volunteer firefighter but his preferred element is his day job where he gets to impact kids for the better.

“These kids are our future,” Mohr said. “They need to be brought up the right way. That’s what I’m called to do — help kids.”

There are between 14,000 and 20,000 officers in 30% of the country’s schools, according to estimates by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Critics of school resource officers, such as Marc Schindler, head of the Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for fair and effective criminal justice policies and reducing the use of incarceration, told NPR in 2018 the use of officers does not make a school safer.

He said the presence of officers in schools can bring unintended consequences such as higher rates of suspensions, expulsions and arrests.

Colman said officers are not involved with disciplinary issues. Those are handled by the LCS administration.

“We have been very careful to give the message to our students that these officers are not here to police them,” Colman said.

And not every child has had positive experiences with law enforcement. For younger students, it might be hard to comprehend the concept of an officer inside the school. Colman acknowledged this and said it’s why they focused heavily on the communication aspect.

So far, it seems to have paid off. Colman said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

He said a parent with an elementary-aged student told him their child said, “I can’t wait to go back to school tomorrow and see my friend.”

Their friend was one of the security officers.

“I think that’s an indication this person is having a great influence,” Colman said.

Gun violence in schools has become more prominent in recent years. An ABC News report from December 2019 found that there were 26 school shootings last year.

The definition of a school shooting varies depending on the agency tracking them. For ABC’s report, it defined a school shooting as “an incident where an alleged assailant steps onto the property of an educational institution ... and fires a gun at another person ...”

A majority of those incidences were either during or at the end of a sporting event.


This piece originally appeared in the Daily Telegram

   

 

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