By Teresa Crowder
In the beginning stages of schools acquiring school resource officers, Johnson County had just one.
Over the years, and as school violence steadily increased, a great need to incorporate more officers has become a reality.
Mark Gladden and his team have worked diligently to make themselves visible and engaged fixtures at each school in the county.
This collaboration between the school system and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department has been welcomed and turned out to be positive for the staff, students, and parents.
Gladden and Sheriff Eddie Tester, along with other resource personnel, conduct their own certified 40-hour school resource officer training in-house here in the county.
The training is in addition to being sent to Morristown for standard peace officer training for 10 weeks. The School Resource Officer Training consists of school-related training, security breaches, an in-depth study of juvenile law, a pre and post-written test, and a final PowerPoint presentation.
School Resource Officers (SROs) in the Johnson County School System are committed and engaged with students, staff, and parents. They seek to establish positive relationships with all. Law enforcement wishes to be seen and conveyed as a safe place for the children and youth of the county, not a threat to be used to discipline a young person, but a safe resource and help in time of need.
“The SROs develop relationships with the kids,” Gladden said. “They are a proud group and take the initiative to interact with the kids on the playground, in the hallways, and in programs such as Girls on the Go and Boys Actively Moving.”
SROs will be stationed at each school in various rotations during the school day and at various functions and games throughout the school year. It is an essential and severe position for this team in our county, and they make an effort daily.
Involvement is crucial. As one has said throughout the years, it does take a village to raise a child, and according to Gladden, “every child is a success story waiting to happen if one adult cares.”