Monett SROs back in the classroom
Team welcomes newest member, Dwayne Rice
Monett’s School Resource Officers (SROs) have been eager to get back to the classroom and begin fostering a good rapport with students and building on those relationships.
“We want to focus on helping kids make good decisions,” said Jay Jastal, who works primarily at the high school level. “We are not there to be the bad guys or the disciplinarians. We want to teach them how to make good decisions in situational instances, so if they ever find themselves being pressured to go with the crowd on something, they have the tools to say no. We teach them the steps they can use to make good decisions.”
Some of the topics that will be covered this year are drugs and alcohol prevention, bullying, cyberbullying and, at the middle school level, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
“We hope to intervene really early on,” Jastal said. “I am now teaching the kids of the kids I taught in D.A.R.E. The key to building those relationships is to treat them with dignity and respect, and never lie to a kid. They will never forget it, and you will destroy any trust they had given you.”
Jastal said the team has to undergo a lot of specialized training to work as an SRO. Some of those include legal issues, de-escalation, mental health and juvenile issues and the law.
Marvin McCracken, who works at the elementary and middle school campuses, said he plans to utilize a video series that encourages youth to make good decisions and teach life skills.
“We will focus on some situations they might encounter and how to deal with them,” he said. “We will also have a class on More than Sad awareness on an age-appropriate level. I enjoy talking to students and seeing them come into their own. I enjoy making those connections with kids.”
Dwayne Rice, the newest member of the SRO team, will be working primarily with intermediate students.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “But I am looking forward to building rapport with the students and teachers, and building a learning environment that is both fun and safe. We want kids to find us approachable.”
Jastal has some interactive programs coming up for students this year at the high school.
“We might do an actual crime scene investigation in conjunction with Missouri Southern State University,” he said. “Kids can go in and actually investigate a scene and work up the case. I will have driving education and will let some student put on the beer goggles and drive the golf cart to experience what drunk driving feels like and how is slows response times. There will also be a section on gun safety. We will talk about suicide awareness and sexting.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom and interacting with the kids.”
With the variety of cultures that co-mingle at each campus, officers are cognizant of varying expressions of respect and know some of the American customs that are taboo within other cultures.
“There is a lot to know,” Jastal said. “But as far as cultural barriers at school, the kids will break those down themselves if you let them. A lot of that is learned behavior.”
Officers will report to Monett Police Department before the school day begins and check reports from the previous night.
“A kid may have been involved in a family domestic case or a criminal case,” Jastal said. “We want to be sure we note that and keep an extra eye open in case that student is struggling the following day. We may check in with that student to make sure they are ok.”
Then, at 7:15, each officer departs for their assigned campus to assist with traffic control as buses, parents and walking students converge on the buildings to start class.
“It’s not unusual for us to be called out after hours to check on a kid,” Jastal said. “We are happy to do it. It’s a great benefit for us to live right here in the community, outside of being just police officers. We see people at games, out shopping, at church. People know who we are.”
Rice, who has been a patrol officer for a year with the department, is exited about transitioning into the school resource slot.
“I’ve been through basic [SRO training] at Jefferson City, and I have nieces and nephews in the same age group as those I will be teaching,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in working with kids. They are the foundation of the future. With adults, it’s harder to change their perspective. I hope to be that positive presence — the role model or mentor to kids that don’t have that at home. Kids come from all walks of life. At some point, they all need understanding and help.”
Rice and his wife, Mary, and their two daughters, Athena, 2, and Abre, 5 months, live in Monett and are active in church and the community.
“I’m eager to start the school year and help bridge that gap in the school and community. I look forward to building rapport with my students and building a positive outlook on law enforcement.”
Jastal said being an SRO isn’t for everybody.
“You gotta love doing this,” he said. “It’s not about the money. We lean on our faith a lot to help with kids, families and the community.”