PARIS — Officer Michelle Legare dedicates more than her time on the clock to public service and safety.

Serving in law enforcement for 14 years, first in Fryeburg and then Paris in 2018, she also volunteers as a counselor at Camp Postcard, a one-week overnight program in Poland for fifth- and sixth-graders who have experienced trauma.

Paris Police Officer Michelle Legare is in her second year as Paris Elementary and Oxford Hills Middle schools’ resource officer. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

She is certified for crisis intervention through the Maine chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness, which teams law enforcement with mental health providers as they respond to mental health crises.

Legare recently completed instructor training in rape aggression defense through the Portland Police Department and started teaching classes. She plans to offer the class in the Oxford Hills area this winter.

When she learned last year that School Administrative District 17 approved a school resource officer for Paris Elementary School and Oxford Hills Middle School, she quickly volunteered for the job.

“I really enjoy working with kids,” she said last week in her office at the middle school on Pine Street in South Paris. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to get in and make positive connections. Be a trusting adult and bridge the gap between the school and community with kids and their families.”


When Legare began the job in September 2o2o, remote learning and occasional school shutdowns changed her role almost from the start. Instead of interacting with students in school halls and classrooms, Legare found herself making home visits.

“I had a pretty big role with kids who were remote, checking in on them,” she said. “When names came up of kids not attending, the social worker here and I would go out and see what we could do to get them back at school.”

There were many students who had a difficult time even checking in for class while in remote learning, she said. When communication efforts from the school were not enough to rein them in, Legare would pay them a visit.

“It was usually (lack of) supervision,” Legare said. “Parents were working so the kids that were home had to have the self discipline to get up in the morning and log into class and be present.

“A few times a parent would be home and think their child was engaged with school, saying as they opened the door that they were on the computer right then,” she said. “Some parents did not realize they had the ability to check in on their kids through an online portal. A lot of them were blindsided, thinking their kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

As the school year progressed, it was often the same 40 or so children who experienced the most challenges to remote learning, she said.


Once schools were able to open to all students, those 40 were prioritized to attend school daily in person and Legare was able to focus less on truancy and more on building relationships with them.

Being the school resource officer is not limited to school hours for Legare. Last spring she coached the eighth grade girls’ softball team. This fall, with staggered open houses being held for families, she has been on site in the evening along with other educators. She is also a visible presence at school sports games, dances and other after-hours student events, working security and getting to know parents.

“I feel like my first year was a good intro, with only half of the kids here at a time,” Legare said. “This year, everyone’s here and it’s definitely busier. Kids are excited to be back and it’s fun to see them with their peers. And they’re getting used to seeing me here.”

Legare’s day starts at the middle school around 7 a.m., directing traffic as students arrive. From there, she goes to the elementary school on High Street. During school hours she divides her time between the two locations, and heads back to direct traffic as students are dismissed.

Lunch periods are especially busy as she splits her time between both schools. It’s the best time to just spend time getting to know students.

“The elementary school is different,” Legare laughed. “They’re so excited to see me.


“Junior high is tough for kids for a lot of reasons,” she said. “They’re figuring themselves out. For some, it’s their first interaction with a police officer that’s not in a negative way. It’s important for them to see where I’m another regular person and I’m here for them.”

Legare makes herself available for whatever students want to talk about.

She also communicates with Officer Steve Cronce, Oxford’s school resource officer and and her counterpart at the middle school’s campus in Oxford.

Paris School Resource Officer Michelle Legare spends weekends outdoors with her dog Luna. Supplied photo

Last spring, Legare referred a couple of her students to Camp Postcard and watched them participate and grow in a new setting.

Camp Postcard is run by Volunteers of America and the weeklong session is staffed by law enforcement and public safety officials. Campers do not know that their counselors are police officers or firefighters/EMTs until the end of their stay.

“To see us through that week as a normal person hanging out with them and teaching them things,” it’s a big deal for the campers to see law enforcement through a different lens, Legare said. “For a couple in my cabin, they had parents who’d died of overdoses, and being with a police officer for a week as a regular person was an ‘oh, wow’ moment for them.”

At the Paris schools, she coordinates with health teachers to lead classes on the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

She has talked with students in class about her firearm and why she has one. She said all faculty members have been very welcoming and supportive of her presence in schools.

“It’s about being an extra person kids can see as a positive role model,” Legare said. “Just talking with and checking on them. I’ll go to their gym classes and get a chance to be more social. I’m on the move, between the two schools all day.”

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