18 Oct Keeping Students Safe At School – An Interview With Officer Barker
When you send your student to school, who is looking after their safety?
It’s not uncommon to see uniformed officers walking the halls of your student’s school; these people are SROs or School Resource Officers. The Department of Justice defines a School Resource Officer as a “sworn law enforcement officer responsible for the safety and crime prevention in schools.” As a parent, it is encouraging to know that there are people dedicated to protecting your students while they learn.
Recently, Safe and Sober was allowed the opportunity to get to speak with one of these fantastic school resource officers, Jasmine Barker.
Officer Barker began her career in law enforcement in 2013, working night shifts in St. Louis County. After starting a family, Barker found herself at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, MO, working as a Student Resource Officer.
Here is her expert advice based on her experiences in law enforcement.
The interview began with a simple conversation about how Officer Barker creates a relationship with the students at her school. Her first piece of advice being, “It’s important for SROs to be available.”
One of the many ways Officer Barker makes herself available to the students is through her dinosaur drawing contests. Each month students get a new theme and can submit their drawings to Officer Barker. A new winner is selected each month.
Officer Barker allows this to be an opportunity to have a conversation with her students.
“You can learn so much by just asking them, “how are you?”
On average, Officer Barker sees the use of e-cigarettes or illegal substances such as marijuana anywhere from three to seven times each week. She believes a big reason students struggle with substance abuse in schools is, “Often students come from broken homes where substance abuse is already occurring.” It is crucial for parents to set a positive example in the home. Children often mimic their parent’s behavior.
When asked what the community could be doing to better aid students in the struggle against substance abuse, she responded, “We need more mental health support in schools. I believe substance abuse is directly related to self-medicating.” Officer Barker believes that students need to grow their coping skills. This, in part, is what lead her to create her dinosaur drawing competition.
Officer Barker has seen great students end up using illegal substances at school, even if they aren’t being used or available in their homes, because of an inability to cope. “I encourage students to draw because drawing is a great, healthy way for students to relieve stress.” For some students, drawing can be a healthy way to cope with stress instead of self-medicating.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry or AACAP is an excellent resource for exploring ways to help teens decrease stress. A few examples from their website include eating right and exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, avoiding excessive amounts of caffeine, and learning assertiveness training skills.
Officer Barker offered a final piece of advice to parents, and that was to provide their teens with holistic ways to manage stress. She suggested equipping them with coping skills as a first resort and trying to keep them off of medication until it is absolutely necessary. She sees in her line of work, “These medications can affect students differently than adults.”
Have conversations with your teen about how you can help them manage stress, support their hobbies, and watch them grow healthily and happily. Reach out to your student’s SRO and ask how you can help become more involved in your local community. Ask what they are doing to deter students from unwanted behavior.
If you would like more advice on helping your student cope with stress, check out https://safeandsoberparents.com/managing-stress/.