ST. CLOUD -- As the emphasis of school safety continues to grow, many parents and students don't understand a very critical part of these safety upgrades have been roaming the halls of areas schools for many years.

School resources officers are often viewed as just another person with a badge, however to the students who interact with them on a daily basis, the officers are an ear to talk to or a friend for the future.

Jill Lindquist is the SRO at the Sartell Middle School. She says when she became an officer she wanted to work with kids in the community and being in the schools allows her to do that.

I feel working in the school is a more proactive approach than being in a patrol car. Helping them learn about their rights and responsibilities, the laws, making good choices and we do a lot of classroom involvement with the kids.

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

A school resource officer is an actual police officer who is assigned to work in the schools. Interested officers can submit a letter of interested to become an SRO, then are put through a formal interview before being selected. When school is not in session, the officers are back on the streets.

In the St. Cloud School District there are five SRO's. Sara Gangle supervises North Junior High School and Madison Elementary. She says one of the biggest misconceptions parents have is just because an SRO calls you, doesn't mean your child is in trouble.

As an SRO we are lots of different people, we are a counselor, a mentor, an educator and law enforcement. And we can't provide what the student needs we reach out to someone to help.

A typical day involves greeting the students as they arrive, checking emails, attending meetings, viewing cameras, checking in with school officials, and following up on incidents that may have occurred after school.

Tim Sigler has been the SRO for the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district for the past seven years. He says one of the biggest challenges he faces in schools today is the growing popularity of vaping.

Three years ago it wasn't anything I've dealt with, it was just cigarettes and tobacco. Last year I wrote over 60 E-cigarette violations within the district, in the previous year I wrote two.

Another situation school resource officers tend to do with is fighting among students, whether verbal or physical. Rob Lyon is the SRO at the Sartell-St. Stephen High School. He says when an incident arises between students they respond and serve as back-up to school officials, who then handle the investigation.

If it's an active fight we will try and break it up the best we can. From there the school will investigate and interview kids and take appropriate action. Then we look into if there is any legal consequences. We try to do our interviews separate from the school officials but we do help each other out when needed.

Despite belief, school resource officers are not trying to make things difficult for students.

Each SRO interviewed says they are there because they truly care about the young men and woman who live in their communities and if they can make a difference in one life, they succeeded at their job.

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