Violence Prevention ProgramThe number of fights in St. Charles parish schools has dropped dramatically since the parish’s Safe Schools program began in the 1994-95 school year. The program, which stations St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Deputies in the parish’s two high schools and four middle schools, is designed to quell violence by deterring student fights.
But the role of the officers, called “resource officers,” involves more than just keeping the peace. They teach law-related courses, act as counselors and role models, and provide a law enforcement presence on campus.
OriginsThe program was put in place after the number of student fights had increased dramatically over a five-year period, and on occasion, resulted in serious injury.
Another concern was that students involved in fights disregarded the orders of school personnel and continued to be aggressive. After school and Sheriff’s Office officials reviewed the system in place at two other Louisiana high schools that had resulted in reductions in violence, it was implemented in St. Charles Parish.
StrategySchool and Sheriff’s Office officials determined that students who felt unsafe in school would be more likely to bring weapons to campus, and a police presence on campus would reduce the threat of violence. After the program was implemented, the number of violent incidents dropped by a dramatic 83 percent. Students who get involved in fights can be arrested and assigned to court school if it is determined that they are the aggressor. Students are allowed to defend themselves against an attack but can be arrested if they retaliate. The combatants can avoid prosecution by participating in a diversion program designed to teach conflict resolution. Classes are held away from the school setting to separate court actions from school disciplinary actions. Parents are required to attend parenting classes if his or her child is arrested a second time in the same school year.
Partnership The mission of the on-campus officers is to support the administration. “We know how to be police officers. They know how to be school administrators,” said Kinler, . The officers’ job is not only to stop fights, but to develop a rapport with students designed to help them stay out of trouble. The strategy has shown results. The number of violent incidents at the schools has averaged 106 per year, a 76-percent reduction from the 436 incidents recorded in the 1993-94 school year. “Realistically, we’re not going to stop every fight. But every child we can turn around is worth the effort,” Kinler said. "Students are willing to accept discipline as long as they believe the rules are being applied fairly," he said.
RulesWhen a fight occurs, school administrators investigate to discover the aggressors.
Someone who is attacked can defend himself, but retaliating against an attacker can lead to an arrest. Penalties for fighting can result in being sent to the school system’s ADAPT alternative program for as long as three days with repeat offenders spending more time in the program, subject to expulsion.
StaffUnder Special Services, Captain Renee Kinler oversees the program.
For a full list of officers, please view Resource Officers.