School Resource Officer Mitchel Shaw chats with fourth-grader Logan Ciriello recently about Halloween costumes. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat Buy this Photo

OXFORD HILLS — What does candy, vaping, hugs and walking have in common? They are all part of the job of a school resource officer. In the SAD 17 district, there are two SROs — Mitchel Shaw at Guy E. Rowe School and Timothy Holland, who is based at the high school but also attends to both middle school campuses.

Never dull, a good day is when chats, hugs and candy (as well as a few miles of walking) fill the hours. A bad day is when a student has been caught vaping, setting a fire or having a meltdown.

Regardless, for most of the students, especially at Rowe and the high school, the school resource officer is a friend, confidant and someone to visit each day.

While school resource officers are often found in middle and high schools as an aid to order, seeing one in an elementary school is less common. In Norway, Police Chief Rob Federico applied for a grant to fund the position four years ago. He had the full support of the district and then principal George “Bo” Sincerbeaux.

The grant covered the salary of a Norway Police Department officer for three years and then the Town of Norway picked up the cost after than. The point, said Federico at the time, was an emphasis on community policing. On developing relationships with the students early so they would come to know law enforcement as a friend, as a resource, and not just as a responder to something bad.

For the last four years Shaw has been “in residence” at the school unless needed for patrol or other law enforcement duties by the department, which sets his schedule. The high school resource officer, on the other hand, is a Paris Police Department officer who is paid and contracted by the school district but can be used by Paris police if needed when school is out of session.

Officer Shaw

A gentle man, Shaw has the perfect personality for what Federico wants to achieve with a resource officer in the elementary school. His success is obvious: he can’t walk down the hall without kids darting out of classrooms simply to give him a hug and others calling, “Hi, Officer Shaw!”

Each morning he waits outside the school to greet the children as they get off the buses. They laugh and wave or give him a high five, low five or whatever greeting is de rigueur. His day involves walking the halls, checking exterior doors, sometimes sitting in a classroom to have a chat with a child, sometimes dealing with Protection From Abuse orders which he is required to serve if someone has been barred from contact with a student. He will explain them to the office staff who have to enforce the orders.

On another day, he might have to sit with the principal, a student or parents to deal with misbehavior.

One Friday in October, Shaw walked through the halls as children greet him. At one classroom he pauses and goes inside, sits down at a table and strikes up a conversation with the three children seated there.

The juxtaposition of a police officer in full gear with a gun on his hip with small children is jarring. In response to being asked why he even wears his gun he says part of the reason is in case he needs it — with the frequency of school shootings this is on everyone’s radar — and to help children get used to seeing an officer in full uniform and not be concerned.

As he walks the halls again, a child comes dashing out of a classroom calling “AweShaw!” and throws his arms around Shaw. Shaw explains that the first year the child met Officer Shaw he could not say “officer” and the name “awe” has stuck.

Students confide in Shaw and he tells them when he needs to tell the principal or child services what they have told him. He says they understand and are okay with it.

Shaw recently left his job with Norway Police Department and his position as the school resource officer at Rowe School to move out west. During his tenure he set the bar high for the next officer to try and fill his very large shoes.

Officer Tim

School resource officer Tim Holland walks miles every day. When he’s not walking he is watching the school’s dozens of cameras. There is nowhere in the common areas of the high school complex that he can’t see. Often he combines his watchful eye with a sympathetic ear when a student needs to talk.

“I have an open door policy,” he says. “Every break kids come in.” Maybe it’s to confide in Holland, or maybe it’s to grab a handful of the never-empty jar of sweets he keeps.

Holland’s wall attests to his myriad certifications, which are in addition to his law enforcement qualifications and years of service to the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

Holland is certified in Adolescent Mental Health, basic and advanced school resource officer, mental health first aid and ALICE (Alert, Lock Down, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active shooter response training. He is also a member of NASRO — the National Association of School Resource Officers.

From a quiet day of chats and walks, to a day when a student thinks it’s a good idea to set toilet paper on fire, Holland’s days move quickly.

On the day of the fire, he is alerted around 8 a.m. about the incident (the fire was brief and didn’t amount to much). He notifies the Paris Fire Chief, who in turn notifies the state Fire Marshall and Paris Police Chief, as is protocol. Holland’s day then focuses on uncovering the perpetrator. He does this quickly thanks to security camera recordings. The next hour or so is spent watching and taking note of times and people to create a clear timeline.

Then there is the chase for the offending student, who decides to take off from the principal’s office. This resulted in a “working lockdown,” which means teachers keep students in the classroom and collect any stray students who might be wandering the halls. Its purpose is to eliminate “gawkers” Holland explained, and this lockdown lasts all of five minutes.

In the middle of all this, someone arrives in his office and hands him a Space Jam lighter and Juul pod confiscated on a bus that morning. He locks it up until he has time to test it to determine what substance it contains.

School Resource Officer Tim Holland tests a confiscated Juul pod to determine if it is nicotine or THC. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

Holland takes investigating fire marshals to the “scene” and every few minutes excuses himself to meet with the principal and fire and police officials behind closed doors.

Stealing a moment, he tests the confiscated Juul pod. “Nicotine,” he announces. He locks it back up.

During another less hectic day, free of unusual events such as toilet paper “fires,” a staff member leans over his office divider and asks if he would buy a raffle ticket. He buys two and tacks them to the wall with a collection of other purchased fundraising tickets.

A call comes over his radio. He needs to escort a disruptive student from a classroom to the principal’s office. He arrives at the door and quietly speaks with the child in question before the two leave the classroom. Downstairs, he asks the boy to take a seat outside the office. The removal was the least disruptive thing happening in the classroom at that moment.

He is scheduled to go on a welfare visit to a student’s home with the principal. He explains that when a child misses a certain amount of school and is unreachable it triggers a home visit to ensure that the child is all right. He is told someone else will accompany the principal so he is able to scratch it from his “to-do” list.

Walking the halls, Holland points out an area in a glassed-in stairwell where he frequently finds students in various stages of canoodling. “Sometimes I will get a call from Dunkin’ Donuts (which is nearby) to check this stairwell as they can see what’s going on,” he laughs.

He also patrols the back, sometimes dark, hallways, a labyrinth of connecting passages to various areas of the school. Starting near the gym he ends up on the stage. He sometimes finds students back there. “They know all the ‘hiding’ places,” he laughs. They also know he can see them on camera so are not surprised when he suddenly shows up.

Passing frequent wanderers, he will ask where they should be. They always have a “good” answer which works until he sees them 10 minutes later, still wandering. He sends them on their way.

Another staff member comes by to ask for his help in solving a handicapped parking issue for the upcoming DECA craft fair. Apparently too many vendors have requested handicapped parking, leaving few spaces for the public. He spends about 30 minutes walking the parking lot, looking at the table location assignments with regard to those who have requested the special parking, and working out a way to accommodate all.

“I’ll enforce [the proper use of the spaces] … I’ll be that guy,” he chuckles. He notes sometimes people move the cones for self-interest.

Another call comes over his radio and he is asked to escort a sick student to the nurse’s office. Arriving at the student’s classroom, he kneels beside the student who is looking wan and when a wheelchair arrives along with the nurse, he pushes her to the elevator and down to the office.

In the hall another student accosts him to breathlessly inform him that a urinal won’t shut off. “That’s custodial,” he says, “I’ll let them know.”

It is break time and he helps the “lunch ladies” set up a second chance breakfast cart in the main hall outside the office. Later he breaks it down for them.

Lunch periods begin at 10:30 a.m. and “if there’s going to be trouble, it usually starts in the cafeteria.”

Holland wanders through the lunchroom, stopping to speak with various students, asking them how their day is going, listening to who has a new boyfriend or an exciting experience and other daily news.

In a normal week he will deal with theft, vaping and criminal mischief. His main focus though, is “interacting with kids.”

“Especially conversing with kids having a bad day and helping them turn it around.”

Every day is different, says Holland. None are boring.

On the wall of School Resource Officer Tim Hollan’s cubby is a poster from a student. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

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