MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — School resource officer Deputy Marlene Guthrie’s day starts with the basic security measures.
“Checking doors, (checking for) intruders, people that are not recognized,” Guthrie said. “If they don’t have a badge where they’ve checked in to the front office, then I’m probably going to ask them what they’re doing and who they are.”
Then when classes change at West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet, it’s time for Guthrie to say “hi” to students.
“I think that kinda keeps them out of trouble as well,” Guthrie said. “They’ll come to us; they will talk to us about stuff, really try to make sure that we have a good relationship.”
Guthrie has been building those relationships with students over the past five years as an SRO at West Wilson Middle.
“They come up to me and give me hugs and tell me about their day and that kind of stuff,” Guthrie said. “I think that’s really important because first of all, they will take that with them into adulthood. They see that I’m not scary, and I’m not just there for the bad stuff. However, they know that if they’re going to do something wrong, that I’m going to be there as well.”
One of the toughest things for SROs is that many security threats don’t arise in school, but rather on social media.
“It keeps evolving and they keep getting more apps and more ways to communicate. It’s tough for SROs to keep up with that and we do, we have to keep on top of it,” Guthrie said.
Wilson County was one of the first school districts in the state of Tennessee to put an SRO on every campus. Its SRO program started in 1995 with officers in high schools, then middle schools. It was the Sandy Hook massacre that made it clear SROs were needed on elementary school campuses as well.
“After that incident when it affected the elementary level, our community leaders immediately came together here in Wilson County. It was immediately voted on unanimously and SROs were placed in all the elementary schools in Wilson County,” said Lieutenant Scott Moore of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. Moore served as an SRO and is now in a supervisory role with the sheriff’s office. He said arrests peaked briefly after SROs were put on every campus.
“Now you’re starting to see a steady decline because of the rapport that the school resource officers are building with each student, and now they feel more comfortable with law enforcement,” Lt. Moore said.
This past year Wilson County also approved an SRO be placed at the Board of Education and Adult Learning Center. The Wilson County School District also now has an online reporting system. It allows people to submit tips anonymously that are then sent immediately to the sheriff’s office.
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