5 Minutes with the SROs: It’s back to school for the SROs
CRAIG — When school starts later this month a second school resource officer will walk the halls to help keep children safe in school and assist in equipping them with the decision-making tools they need to make healthy choices.
Craig Police Officer Nathan Businger spent several weeks of his summer in class as part of his preparation to join Officer Ryan Fritz as an SRO. The Craig Press caught up with both SROs to learn more about them, how they spent their summer, and what’s in store for the new school year.
Craig Press: What did you do over summer when school was out?
Businger: My primary duties were patrol officer throughout the summer. I attended basic SRO certification training in Longmont and D.A.R.E. training in Salt Lake City, Utah. I passed.
Fritz: He was the outstanding member of his team. I worked some patrol shifts. I went to the school safety conference in Colorado Springs. There, I listened to a presentation by The Tall Cop — Jermaine Galloway — called “high in plain sight.” He points out the glaringly obvious things that are in our view. It included a drug trends update, including clothing that we can look at. Not that the SROs do anything with clothing standards at the schools, but we can point out when there is a drug reference. It helps to get a lot more drugs off the street. Also, had FBI active shooter training and digital threat assessment. There was a lot of really good stuff packed into a three-day conference.
CP: How do the SROs help teachers and administrators prepare for the new school year?
Fritz: We are continuing to use the ALICE program. Investigator Norm Rimmer will spearhead these, because he is a trainer for the ALICE program. We have two trainings next week. One is a full-length class for new teachers, and at the middle school, we will do a refresher class with some scenario-based training. As the school year gets kicked off, we’ll do some of that at the elementary schools and high school.
CP: How are each of you preparing for the new school year?
Fritz: I’m still trying to get caught up from the last one. Year round, we do everything that we possibly can to make sure we are keeping our kids safe. Our key is building relationships so that they (the students) are willing to come to us when they see or hear things going on.
Businger: My focus would be on the transition from patrol to school resource officer. Aside from training, like Ryan said, working on relationships with students will be my focus.
Fritz: One of the biggest opportunities will be the Splash Party. I have a previous engagement, so Investigator Rimmer will be passing the torch in front of the kids. The first year as an SRO is kind of a struggle in building relationships with the kids. It can take a lot of time.
CP: What’s new with the D.A.R.E. program?
Fritz: Our fifth-grade curriculum has remained the same. D.A.R.E. America has announced a K through 12th-grade opioid and addiction curriculum. D.A.R.E. America has recognized the crisis that our county is going through.
The program starts in kindergarten with what’s safe to eat and what’s not. In sixth and seventh grade, it starts to hit serious topics, such as what is addiction? It really builds on the things our kids have gotten in the fifth-grade curriculum. The focus is to have the D.A.R.E. officer be their D.A.R.E officer from kindergarten until the day they put on the cap and gown and graduate from high school.
Businger: It’s important to note that addiction goes beyond the traditional idea of alcohol and tobacco. We talk more about addiction to social media, and the new opioid curriculum focuses on the broader definition of what addiction is, the cycle of addiction, and how it affects youth.
It’s evidence-based, and it meets state and federal standards for health education.
Fritz: So, by us teaching it, we might be able to bear some of the burdens that councilors and health teachers have when teaching about these topics. The new tagline for D.A.R.E. America is “TeachingsStudents decision making for safe and healthy living.”
CP: What will that mean in terms of expanding your roles and time in the classroom?
Fritz: We are just in the beginning stages of figuring out how this is going to look, but hopefully, it will have us in the classroom more, rather than just in the building — to instead be in the classroom and the subject matter experts for these students and the questions they’ve got. Kids are curious about this stuff.
CP: What changes do you expect now that the district has gone from four to three elementary schools?
Fritz: Even though the number of facilities has changed, the number of kids have not. The biggest change will be at Sandrock Elementary, where they are now three tracks — they have three classes for every grade. With myself, Nathan, and Norm, we will be able to teach three classes at the same time.
CP: What other changes will you make with a second SRO now trained and ready to go?
Fritz: No real changes, just back to how it used to be. Being fully staffed in the program again, we will be able to be a more positive influence on our students. And, instead of being reactionary, we can be proactive, and try to prevent some of the negative behaviors that happen in the schools.
Safety of the students within the school district is our number-one priority, but we both want to be more than just a cop in the building. We want to be a mentor, an informal counselor, and teacher, and building those relationships, that’s what’s important.
It’s so much more than being there when kids screw up. It’s also about being there to help prevent them from screwing up and to help keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.
Middle school and high school is a place to make mistakes. There’s so much more to learn than what’s in the books. They are learning how to be adults and productive members of society, and sometimes, that means learning from other people’s mistakes and your own. So, we help kids take accountability for those mistakes, admit when they are wrong, and learn from it.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.