By Matt Nielsen
School safety has been one of the most talked about issues in America over the past twelve months. Ever since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn, people have been discussing how to make schools safer. We all know school shootings are a rarity, but as we have unfortunately found out in the past, they do happen.
It is important for parents to know that their children will have a safe environment to educate themselves. Every high school in the country has safety precautions in case something as horrific as a shooting would happen.
Schools also have to deal with numerous other issues to make sure students are safe and feel comfortable in their learning environment. Some of the major issues that schools have to deal with include bullying, drugs and alcohol and making sure students know what to do in case someone shows up with a weapon.
Police are always a huge part in a school district. They want to keep everyone safe and make sure that there are no major incidents each and every day.
In Devils Lake, Officer Ben Harkness is the man who keeps an eye over every school in town. His official title is school resource officer. Officer Harkness looks over the schools in the morning and afternoon and takes care of problems that may happen at the school including bullying, drug and alcohol related incidents, and making sure people are driving safely in the school zone.
Harkness has been on the department for two years but has only been the school resource officer for a little over two months.
"It's a little more diverse working with the students but I've enjoyed it so far," he said.
One of the main issues that almost every high school has to deal with is drug and alcohol related issues.
Harkness has given a few presentations on drug abuse and traffic safety issues to the students in small amount of time he has been the school resource officer.
The school resource officer is much more diverse than one would think. It carries a lot of responsibility and is more of a three prong job.
"Not only am I part of the law enforcement while at the school, I'm also an educator and informal counselor," said Harkness.
Harkness had the opportunity this summer to take a three day course that taught him about emergency planning and training.
"I'm still learning the process that the schools take if there ever were a weapon situation like that but we do have steps in place such as lockdowns, lockdown procedures, and evacuations. We have procedures lined up for pretty much anything," said Harkness.
Page 2 of 2 - If there ever happens to be a lockdown, the school district will take a similar approach to what almost school around the country does. Teachers make sure all of the students are in the classroom, lock the doors and turn off all of the lights.
Along with weapon emergencies comes weather and other related emergencies. Tornado and fire drills are two of the biggest drills that the school preaches throughout the year. As with a shooting, a tornado and fire are unlikely but there is nothing more important than knowing a procedure in case of an unfortunate event.
Officer Harkness is enjoying his time as the school resource officer and feels like it is an awarding and gratifying position.
"I enjoy working with kids while their still learning and still finding out who they are. Hopefully I can be a positive influence on them," said Harkness.