School resource officers head back to class for specialized trai - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

School resource officers head back to class for specialized training

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

Dozens of officers are breaking out their pencils and notebooks this week.

A specially designed course to teach school resource officers across New England is being hosted in Springfield.

"Working with children and families, it is completely different," said Sheffield Police Officer Tricia Zucco.

It's a labor of love to serve and protect our most vulnerable population: school children.

Zucco became the town's school resource officer back in February.

"I couldn't say yes quick enough," Zucco added.

The town had not employed a school resource officer in over a decade, but after the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, they decided Zucco should change her beat. 

"I'm also a part-time school nurse, so I have some pretty strong ties with the students at my school, the parents, and the community," Zucco explained.

This week, dozens of police officers - including 13 from the Springfield force - headed back to class.

It's a specialized program in Springfield to beef up training for school resource officers. 

"We try to give them a crash course on being a mentor and a counselor and how to deal with kids," said Ted Dau with the National Association of School Resource Officers.

School resource officers are more than just security and safety leaders.  They are developing relationships and educators in their own right.

"We're not walking the beat.  We're going after the kids or looking for the bad things.  We are a positive thing in the school, someone they can go to - a mentor, a counselor, a teacher," Dau added.

As Western Mass News found on Thursday, the course focuses largely on the softer side of police work in schools. 

"When we first showed up on school campuses during the 80s, we were just there as an officer, friendly, smiling all the time, and really not making much of a difference," Dau noted.

However, the job has evolved incredibly in recent years. 

"Now, we realize the awesome responsibility we have as SROs. We really truly can make a difference in the lives of kids," Dau said.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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