SRO busy on patrol

Friday, December 12, 2008

The security resource officers assigned to the County's three high schools are probably the only sheriff's department deputies to be found actually walking a beat.

Deputy Elijah Stuard patrols the parking lots, hallways and classrooms of Forrest School from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day school is in session.

Lately, however, he took a month off to take care of his grandfather who had open-heart surgery.

"They got a little relaxed without me being here," said Stuard. "I came back and did my job."

He is referring to three incident reports that he had to file for the sheriff's department in the first week of December.

On Monday morning, Dec. 1, "A student came up to me in the hall and asked what he should do if he knew someone had weed on them," Stuard reports. "I told him he needed to tell me."

Stuard asked where to find the boy and was told, "in the new gym," so he called principal Larry Miller and they went to the new gym. "Upon making contact with the 14-year-old boy," Stuard's report continues, "I asked him what he had on him and he said 'a can of dip.' I asked him was that all; he said 'yes.' I then asked, 'Where is the weed?' He dropped his head and said 'in my wallet.' I told him to give it to me and he did."

The Office Complaint Form at the Marshall County Sheriff's office adds, "He was zero-tolerance from school for a calendar year."

Forrest's 850 students eat lunch in four half-hour shifts between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Because teacher work schedule includes a "duty-free lunch hour," the the SRO and the principal patrol the lunchroom.

A fight in the cafeteria on Wednesday, Dec. 3, prompted Stuard to physically restrain a 15-year-old boy until he calmed down enough to be safe.

"This isn't a bad school," Stuard said. "This is just kids making bad decisions."

"Yes," Miller agreed. "Ninety-nine percent of the kids get along fine. Some of them are learning that bad decisions and bad behavior do have consequences."

A parent was instrumental in uncovering the third incident of the week on Friday, Dec. 5.

The mother told he officer that "she found a note in her daughter's bedroom that stated some kids would be drinking at school today," Stuard wrote in his report. "We got the names of the students and ... got them out of class. Upon searching and asking all the students some questions, we found a cup with about eight ounces of an alcoholic mixture of gin, Jack Daniels and Bud Light. All eight students said they had been drinking out of the cup which at one time had been full. They stated they drank in the old gym and the bathroom."

The eight young people included three 12-year-old girls, two 13-year-old girls and a boy the same age, and two 14-year-olds, a girl and a boy.

As for what punishment these students had received, Miller said, "I'm not at liberty to say. They fall under the School Board's policy for disciplinary procedure."

The School Board's policies do not specifically refer to alcohol, but call "possession of unauthorized substances" a Level IV Misbehavior that is subject to "suspension for a period of not less than one calendar year subject to modification by the director of schools on a case-by-case basis."

The principal has a variety of disciplinary options for the students who were fighting, since this is a Level III Misbehavior. These options include, but are not limited to, in-school suspension, detention, corporal punishment, and out-of-school suspension.

Miller is in his first year as Forrest principal. Stuard, a 2001 FHS graduate, is also new to his job as SRO.