It’s a sign of the times: A uniformed police officer strolls school grounds, interacting with students and staff while offering a first line of defense against every parents’ worst nightmare.
Now, with stories growing more frequent of school intruders bringing violence to the hallowed halls of education, the Enumclaw School District has made a giant leap. When the calendar flips to 2019, Enumclaw High will have an on-duty officer spending her day on campus.
It’s a decision that was years in the making, really, and one that didn’t come quickly.
It was after the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that the Enumclaw School District and Enumclaw Police Department began having “serious discussions” about creation of a school resource officer position, according to a memo provided by Enumclaw Police Chief Bob Heubler.
“Given the advent of school violence nationwide it was agreed between both entities that an SRO position would benefit both the Enumclaw School District and the Enumclaw Police Department, as well as the community as a whole,” Heubler’s memo stated.
After researching agreements existing in other communities, the city and school district determined that the entities would split the cost evenly. The model is very similar to the agreement between the Tahoma School District and Maple Valley Police Department.
Then, it had to be decided who would fill the role. Heubler noted that one of his newer officers, Amanda Reeves, was excited about the prospect and had the proper background. As a former collegiate athlete, she has experience working with and coaching young people. She has been on the Enumclaw force since 2016 and has worked security at district events.
To prepare for her new challenge, Reeves shadowed a Puyallup school recourse officer and spent a week attending a training session offered by the National Association of School Resource Officers.
The course explained how SROs take a “triangle” approach to their job, Reeves said. The three tasks are to act as a law enforcement officer, to offer basic counseling to students who might have legal questions and, finally, to provide teachers with in-class assistance.
“There’s a lot of gray area,” she admits, while stressing that SROs are not present simply to respond in the event of a school shooting. Most of her time will be spent addressing “all of the stuff that goes on” during the course of a school day; that could mean anything from dealing with students who bring marijuana or alcohol onto campus or dealing with fights.
Both Reeves and the district are quick to point out that the school’s existing security officers will still be handling issues that do not rise to the level of police involvement.
In posting news of the appointment of an SRO, the school district’s website noted that “Officer Reeves’ role on campus during the school day is to ensure safety in accordance with the law while also getting to know the staff and students. Having a member of the Enumclaw Police Department on our campus allows a substantial connection between our work and theirs.”
EHS Principal Aaron Lee pointed out having a SRO on campus will add to the “new security measures in place in our new building.
“With Officer Reeves on board,” he continued, “we have a significant level of safety and security to help ensure that all of our students and staff know that their well-being is a top priority.”
WHAT NEIGHBORING DISTRICTS ARE DOING
The White River School District has stopped short of bringing uniformed officers onto school grounds but has, for decades, had security officers on campus.
Michelle Bradshaw is the district’s head of security, now in her 20th year with White River. She makes it a point to visit all the district’s schools and oversees two campus security officers, one assigned to White River High and the other to Glacier Middle School.
In the larger Sumner School District it’s a similar story. The district has two security officers assigned to Sumner High and two at Bonney Lake High, with one security officer at each middle school. According to information sent by the district, “These district employees help maintain order and discipline, prevent crime, and help investigate violations of school rules and policies.”
They are not, however, commissioned police officers. Sumner maintains a relationship with the Sumner and Bonney Lake police departments, plus the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, who “regularly patrol areas around our schools with a constant and immediate line of communication.”