EDWARDSVILLE - A retired school resource officer (SRO) spoke about the importance of SROs during the biannual Madison County School Safety Summit on June 11, 2024.

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Kip Heinle, retired Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy, shared stories from his time as an SRO at Triad High School. He spoke about the role an SRO serves in a school and the importance of collaboration between SROs, their schools and local law enforcement.

“We’re not a cop. We are a cop, but our main job is not to arrest kids,” Heinle explained. “I would much rather teach a kid than take them to jail any day of the week.”

As an SRO, Heinle said he served as a parent, teacher and counselor to students. Kids would ask him for advice or help with homework. He also served as the “face” of the school district and the police department, as he saw more people every day than any other officer.

Heinle encouraged school districts to hire an SRO “who’s going to do the job.” In his career, he did a perimeter check every morning and spent a lot of time checking inside the building for anything “that didn’t look right.”

“I knew that building inside and out as an SRO,” Heinle remembered. “As an SRO, you are a building engineer. You need to learn everything there is to know about that building, because when stuff hits the fan, you need to know how to turn it off.”

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Heinle also made a point to bond with the students. He attended sporting events, musicals, band concerts and more while he was off-duty so the kids and parents could see the presence of an SRO.

While most public schools in the region have SROs, there are a few local private schools that do not. Heinle encouraged all schools, but especially these private schools, to increase their security measures by utilizing a key swipe system, updating security cameras, keeping doors locked, and storing tourniquets and a floor plan with the fire extinguisher in every classroom.

He also suggested that administrators could put a piece of tape on their master key so that they can feel for it quickly during an emergency. He remembered that Triad purchased wands, and the SROs would randomly wand people and bags during sporting events.

He encouraged districts to invite police officers to the school buildings to fill out their reports, which allows the schools to have a police presence and helps the officers gain a better understanding of the school layout.

Heinle also spoke briefly about cell phone usage in schools. He noted that social media and cell phones have completely changed the way students communicate and interact with each other, and he encouraged administrators to think about new ways to limit cell phone use.

“The cell phones are killing our kids right now,” he added. “I can’t control what these kids do at 4 o’clock at night. That’s a parent’s responsibility. But everything is brought back into our schools, so monitor your cell phones.”

A few administrators spoke about ways to ban or limit cell phone use during the school day, including using secure pouches or lockers to lock up cell phones during class periods. Superintendents noted that they have discussed these ideas with their Boards of Education and fellow administrators, and they said they would continue to have these conversations.

For more information about the Madison County School Safety Summit, read this article on RiverBender.com.

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