During the school year I teach Music and Movement classes to preschoolers with special needs in the Howard County Public School System. But last summer I traded my "Hot Potato" and "Hokey-Pokey" for a different tune altogether. As a Para Educator in Howard County's Comprehensive Summer School, my song went more like this:
“Hat off, headphones off, put your
phone away. Hats off, headphones off, and pull…up…your…pants!”
My transition from Early Childhood to
Adolescence was made possible by the supportive and knowledgeable Summer School
team at Long Reach High School.
At the heart of this team was the partnership of Rick Robb, CSS Principal, and
Mr. Richard Ebb, Director of Security. They made sure that all of the Para Educators
understood exactly why we were there:
The mission of the Howard County
Public School System is to ensure excellence in teaching and learning so that
each student will participate responsibly in a diverse and changing world.
Goal 1 - Each child regardless of
race, ethnicity, gender, disability or socio-economic status, will meet the
rigorous performance standards that have been established. All diploma-bound
students will perform on or above grade level in all measured content areas.
Goal 2 - Each school will provide a
safe and nurturing school environment that values our diversity and
Recognize it? Those are the mission and
goals of the Howard County School System.
Every employee on the Summer School
working to support those goals. I soon
learned how important Goal 2 was in assuring the achievement of Goal 1. We
worked in cooperation with Mr. Ebb and the School Resource Officer to make sure
that the school buildings and grounds were a safe and nurturing environment.
Recently the school system and the Howard
County Police Department have announced the introduction of a pilot program to
station School Resource Officers in six middle schools. Some of the reactions I
have been reading have been inflammatory and far from accurate. Schools
are not being turned into penitentiaries. Officers are not one
step away from taking away students' civil liberties. School Resource Officers
are not deployed merely to break up fights.
This is what you need to know:
"A school resource officer
mentors students, conducts instructional classes and handles disturbances and
What does that mean in plain language?
It means that a full two-thirds of an SRO's job is devoted to communication.
And that's where the walkie talkie comes in. While it may seem natural to focus
on the officer's gun, it is the walkie talkie that best symbolizes the role the
SRO fulfills within the school.
Officers build relationships with students,
communicate with staff, reach out to parents and the greater community. School
Resource Officers are working in middle schools in an effort to reach out to At-Risk
students--as defined by attendance, referrals, and grades. In some cases
they are running after-school programs as well. (I didn't know that, either.
Check out their website.)
Yes, enforcement is also a part of
the job. The officer, like everyone else in the school, is charged with
helping to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Parents need to be able
trust that their children are safe within the school, and protected from
community issues that might spill into the school. Students learn best when
they feel safe. We all do.
A good way to describe how this really works
within the schools is an anecdote about a high school student who declared he
"hated cops." "I don't like the way they look, don't like
them hanging around. But Officer D., he's different. He's alright."
So, now you know. And please--will you
just take your hat off and pull up your pants? Thanks.