What are Campus Cops Doing While Schools are Shut Down?

By Stephen Owsinski

Campus cops are doing what they always do: plenty! Especially for the children of the schools to which they are assigned.

While the nation’s labyrinth of school districts responsible for providing education are mandatorily shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, students are navigating the new norm of “distance learning.” That is, pretty much everything they were getting on campus, except it is now all delivered online and with the comforts of home. Teachers remotely connect with students via laptops, tablets and whatever electronic device achieves a connection.

School resource officers (aka SROs or campus cops) around the country are not without a job, though. Certainly not while every uniformed body is imperatively needed on the streets. Then again, if citizens are honoring social distancing concepts recommended by government, maybe some slack can be given…whereby campus cops can contribute to their students. And that is exactly what many school resource officers are doing nowadays, effectively accomplishing a few things: supplementing teachers with book read and similar educational practices while also allaying the myriad apprehensions kids must feel during an inexplicable stoppage in normal routines.

To top it all off, this is being done while also working the beat. Again, every uniformed body is needed out there.

According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) located in Hoover, Alabama, a comprehensive repository of all things school-resource-officer related, quite a number of cops from police agencies across the United States are deploying online in order to stay connected to students.

My social media feed is ripe with daily postings/illustrations of law enforcement officers assigned to schools in varying jurisdictions across the American landscape, from small rural school districts with a few hundred students to massive metropolis ones with a robust role of school kids. Keeping them all safe at school properties is the core feature and ideal purpose of campus cops; that has been the tradition. So, now what?

Since that job is now made easy with widely-dispersed stay-home orders, that allows police officers to reallocate their focus on students without the threat of an “active shooter” scenario. Interesting how this pandemic sort of conducted a reset on the planet, eliminating the possibility of such ghastly events from even occurring. Silver linings?

Teaching remotely, whether it be public health info or simply substituting for a math or English teacher, online production keeps everyone safe, sound, and in the learning loop. For many students, a campus cop is also considered a quasi-family member and person with whom rapport is developed to talk candidly about concerns and sort through the flux of emotions.

A friend of mine is a parent whose young daughter is home, distance learning, and reportedly “sad” by what’s going on (or not going on) outside. Understandably. Now imagine such children having an identifiable cop piped into their family room or den or parents’ home office; the already established bond makes these difficult days more bearable and relatable for youngsters’ mindsets. The police officers are our friends credo has never been more true, more epitomized, virtually delivered like a fresh-baked cheesy pizza (except these cops’ deliveries are for credit and, well, just being there as pillars upon which to lean securely).

Although cops may not be certified titans of teaching, nothing during these pandemic times says they can’t contribute in myriad ways other than public safety. Many hats theory? Yep!

We are seeing cops not only connect with students via their home or patrol car or police HQ—every single one I came across did so donned in full police uniform.

Let’s take a look!

SRO Ryan Valland of the Sioux Falls Police Department stayed with the crime-fighting theme and read his virtual students a book called “Brief Thief.” Notice his mention of not licking his fingers to turn pages, providing a lesson within a lesson…the way cops ordinarily do.

While currently re-assigned to patrol duties in his jurisdiction, SRO Paul Hill of the Marietta Police Department opted to read to students from the mobile office otherwise known as a police cruiser. Officer Hill told the media that connecting with kids virtually: “I thought it would be a good way for kids to see me again and a way for me to reach out to them.” As Hill puts it, it is a way to “be there for all my kids,” while serving up Dr. Suess classic “Green Eggs and Ham” and other giggly goods.

Wisely, SRO Hill also parked himself in a rocking chair at one of the five Marietta City Schools campuses to which he is typically assigned, reading a Dr. Suess book with a Black Lab puppy perched upon his lap. I’m betting story-time along with a puppy put students’ minds at ease.

Bravo for the brain, but what about the other muscles kids need to use? Well, Carmel Police Department SRO Sarah Livingston got it covered. She composed a YouTube video with herself as a PE instructor encouraging students to exercise while being cooped up at home.

About those academic studies, though. SRO Eric Fisher of the East Cocalico Township Police Department developed and broadcast world geography lessons for students to glean other places and cultures different than our own.

School-assigned deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office have taken it to the streets with a specific mission of ensuring school resources come from officers. Reading the HCSO’s web page, they’ve got things covered: “From school buses to patrol vehicles, school-based deputies have hit the road with deliveries of school-provided meals for those who might otherwise go without lunch. In addition to lunches, certain students in need receive a backpack with food for home each week. For families without transportation, deputies have dropped off the packs.

“With nourishment handled, deputies have also been arriving with school work in hand for students without Internet access. They’ve also been delivering Chromebooks for students without computers at home.” How’s that for addressing needs of the community?

But they also took note of one more matter: band. Like the band of brothers/sisters cops are, so are musicians in training. The deputies of Hall County didn’t stop short and also equipped school band members/students with instruments to keep notes passed (no, not that kind). They made the effort complete with “delivery of a few band instruments so students can practice over the coming days.”

Speaking of tunes and musical instruments, a state policeman in Maine decided to show up with his brass. No, not police executives…a saxophone. With schools closed, East Providence High School SRO Doug Borden took to the streets to patrol a city beat. But he also threw notes into the air…having nothing to do with littering paper. East Providence PD’s Officer Borden is blessed with the talent of playing a horn instrument and did so during his patrol shifts, wafting the air with musical flair.

As SRO Borden aired: “

Are cops doing anything about the nationwide shortage of medical face masks? Well, I know of one. North Hills SRO Trina Loesch took to needle/thread and put her sewing skills to work. SRO Loesch accomplished several things here: she sewed medical masks for those who need them while also tutoring students at home how to fashion face masks for themselves and others, a proverbial win-win thanks to a cop online. Another lesson within a lesson…and another example of the myriad talents our LEOs bring to the table (along with those many hats).

Officer Loesch’s idea is quite clever, since youngsters can learn and create their own enterprises for the common good, such as the young student in Florida whose stay-at-home ritual entails sewing hundreds of medical masks for those without.

Some cops got together and combined comedy with chalk art, offering laughable situations in which we find ourselves. The biggest theme in this particular series of duty performance by Canfield Police Department LEOs, however, is that cops are as real as it gets…making the best of the worst of times. Cops influences students to see the upside in a downturned world (at present).

We all know how much value cops add to our constitutionally free society. And the pandemic’s quarantine mandates are a slight dent in our norm. But that does not mean we must fall prey and feel boxed in with no resources to enrich our lives. School resource officers matter and make huge differences in the lives of our kids at schools across America.

Herein we covered a small batch of marvelous deeds SROs are performing around the nation via virtual conduits, enough to garner their own hashtag #SROsMatter. Of course they do!

For an increasing bevy of beautiful stories effected by SROs all around the United States, the National Police Association encourages you to browse the National Association of School Resource Officers page, to see many dutiful cops catering to the learning experience of students (and others along the way) during the school shut-down.

I think we’ll close with East Providence, Rhode Island SRO Borden’s words regarding cops trying their darndest to ease apprehensions in a world gripped by pandemic proportions: “I think the idea behind it is everyone feels a bit unsettled and everyone’s nervous about what’s going on. I think they look over and they see a police officer with a saxophone and it gives them time to pause from thinking about the virus.”

Indeed we are blessed with many great lessons from fantastic cops trying to ease burdens, worries and woes…their usual duty but from a distance!

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