SF Resource Officers Protect Kids & Staff
April 30, 2013 9:30 PM
South Dakota school districts have the option of placing guns in the hands of teachers, administrative staff and janitors.
This is followed by Governor Dennis Daugaard's signature on the school sentinel bill this March.
While many school districts in the surrounding area say they would not let school staff carry guns on campus, districts have been exploring alternatives.
School districts in Sioux Falls and Harrisburg have resource officers, which are supplied by local law enforcement.
Apart from the officers’ number one job of protecting students and staff, they build relationships with the kids and some officials even call their assigned schools, their second home.
"I get to be a police officer, which I love and a teacher, which I love," said Neal.
Marty Neal has been a resource officer at Whittier Middle School for the past seven years.
"I look at these as my kids, I have a few naughty ones, I have a lot of good ones and I have some that tend to go back and forth, it's just like real life," said Neal.
Protecting students and staff is his number one priority, wearing an extra 18 pounds of protection gear, including pepper spray, an asp baton and of course, his glock which is fully loaded.
"Two magazines, each one carrying 15 bullets," said Neal.
The protective gear is necessary for emergency situations, such as an event one Whittier teacher recalled like it was yesterday.
"I don't know what we'd do without him here," said Lynne Hawk, an eighth grade teacher.
Last fall, Whittier was put on lockdown, after a person barricaded themselves in their home across the street from the middle school.
"The initial response was shock and what do we do now, but I knew he was there and I knew whatever he said to do we needed to do and same with my students, we just followed instructions," said Hawk.
Apart from keeping students and staff safe, Neal said his role shares a deeper meaning.
"It's about establishing relationships and seeing when children are starting to go downhill in certain areas, bring them in, mentor them, talk to them, get to know the families," said Neal.
With Neal's retirement just over five years away, saying goodbye to the school he's grown to love will be a difficult task.
"These hallways have become home to me, the artwork on the walls, the happy birthday stickers on the lockers, I'm going to miss everything about it," said Neal.
Sioux Falls school district resource officers are members of law enforcement, who go through police training such as defense tactics, firearm and active shooting training.
Police officers who want to become a SRO go through an application and interview process to be selected.
Although, smaller school districts in the state have looked into resource officers, some districts have ran into the issue of funding additional security jobs.