The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

August 23, 2013

Officials: School Resource Officers do help

(Continued)

There are more school resource officers than ever before in Etowah County, in the three school systems.

Sheriff Todd Entrekin, whose department hosted the class, said he believes schools are much safer because of SROs.

"Having a uniformed officer in that school, in itself, makes them much safer," he said. "Those officers are the first line of defense in the schools."

Kerri Williamson, training director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, taught one of the segments. She said the association often has people ask what an SRO is.

"It's not an armed guard, somebody to just stand by the door with a gun," she said.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are properly selected and trained to work inside the schools and deal with potential violent situations within a school, while building relationships with the students. It's all part of making schools safer, Williamson said.

"If you don't make a connection quickly, you're not going to be as effective," she said.

Williamson said NASRO does not advocate hiring retired officers or private citizens, or arming non-law enforcement personnel or teachers.

She said in a dangerous situation or some type of violent episode, it is a teacher's responsibility to stay with his or her students and follow safety plans — not head out the door, gun in hand, toward the sound of gunfire.

"Then how are those children protected?" Williamson asked. "As a teacher, I don't want to have to make that decision."

She said the SROs' role is very important. They should be visible and also serve as a classroom and community resource.

While they're in schools to help make them safer, they sometimes will be involved in issues that require discipline. That disciplinary action should be left up to school officials.

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