Schools should be places where students feel safe and parents feel their children are being protected. The increasing number of school threats and incidents has caused many to feel less safe on school properties. The sheriff’s office of Ingham County and school resource officers such as Deputy Megan Jordan work to combat that.
The most valuable protection that the sheriff’s department has for schools is a dedicated school resource officer. The officer’s main duty is to maintain safety and security while building relationships with students.
The position is funded by Delhi Township and is in charge of the buildings in the Holt school district, as well as other parts of the county, with about 5,600 students and 800 faculty and staff. “It’s really like a small city, for one cop,” said County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth.
Ingham Intermediate School District director of facilities and safety, Steve Rusnock, said the school resource officer is a significant benefit for the district.
“Coordinating with the sheriff’s office and school resource officers helps to give that extra feeling of security for all the students and parents, not to mention the faculty,” said Rusnock. “Showing the kids that the police force is a resource and an ally is so important.”
Deputy Megan Jordan has been the school resource officer since the beginning of the school year, and said the most important part of her job is to build relationships with students.
“I show that police officers are humans, too, and not just people who show up in bad times,” said Jordan. She visits elementary schools to participate in art and gym classes with the students.
Wriggelsworth said the true value of the school resource officer is incalculable, since its very success is marked by the absence of anything happening. He said the knowledge that a uniformed officer is on campus provides a commonsense deterrent and is an invaluable protection.
The aftermath of the Oxford High School shootings in November of 2021 caused challenges for the district and Jordan.
“Unfortunately, during that time, the kids started doing a lot of writing on the bathroom walls,” said Jordan. The high school and junior high saw a drastically increased amount of called-in threats and notes in the days and weeks following the tragedy in Oxford.
This put the district on high alert, and Jordan said teachers and staff to start monitoring bathroom passes more carefully, watching where students went when excused from class, and following up on leads.
In recent years, there has been debate as to the value or need of having police officers on school campuses. “When there was some pushback as to whether cops should be in schools or not be in schools, I was right there on the forefront saying they should,” said Wriggelsworth. “Just because something happened somewhere else doesn’t mean we should cancel out the whole school resource officer position.”
The high school and junior high schools in Holt have their own individual security guards, meaning that Jordan is called only if they need assistance, but many Ingham districts do not have independent officers. Wriggelsworth noted that East Lansing and Lansing have both recently gotten rid of the school resource officer position.
“I wish we could have more officers in all the schools,” said Jordan. “I think it’s important that they have them, especially at the high school and junior high level.”