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National Law Enforcement Week is May 13-19.
Law enforcement officers in Fayette County Public Schools work to keep students safe. They also occasionally act as social workers, mentors, counselors and peacekeepers.
“We hear of things that are disruptions to the building and we defuse them before it becomes a problem. If two kids are squabbling, we’re going to pull them aside and do a mediation,” explained Tracy Day, the senior officer assigned to Tates Creek High School.
With successful interventions, she said, it’s a satisfying effort when no one gets in trouble or hurt.
Each of the five high schools has a supervisor and three officers. Another officer in a given area splits time between middle schools, such as at Southern and Tates Creek. The elementary schools simply call in to the geographic hub whenever they need an officer’s assistance.
Most of the two dozen officers, who are on the 10½-month schedule, work an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekday shift, which corresponds roughly to when school is in session. The senior officers are year-round employees. FCPS also has several administrative assistants and dispatchers, including part-timers who cover holidays and weekends.
“It’s entirely different than what I thought it would be,” said Day, who worked in the Paris police department before joining FCPS about 14 years ago. “The favorite part of my job is I have no idea what we’re going to do. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
One recent morning, for example, her crew received word of a known trespasser in the building. Day speculated it probably was a student who had withdrawn from school who was simply walking his girlfriend to class and would slip out a side door afterward.
As attendance was taken around the building on that typical Monday, officers made note of students who were reported as missing persons. As Day said, the teenagers likely didn’t tell their parents they were spending the weekend at a friend’s house.
Day also planned to follow up on a report of a stolen cell phone. Meanwhile, officers prepared for potential calls about students disrupting class or possibly using drugs and alcohol on campus.
“We walk the line of what’s administrative and what’s criminal,” she said.
In between the action, the officers sometimes speak to classes about careers in law enforcement and about Fourth Amendment issues dealing with searches and seizures.
“If 20 minutes goes by and we don’t get a call, that’s a good day right there,” said Day, a graduate of Tates Creek High and Eastern Kentucky University.
Principal Sam Meaux praised the officers as valuable partners at his school.
“They are a tremendous support, and I can’t imagine being here without them,” he said. “The relationship we have with our law enforcement officers is phenomenal. We are a true team.”
Day agreed, noting that officers ideally work well with administrators and students, taking the time to listen and keeping a sense of humor.
“When I wake up excited to come to work, I know I’m in the right place,” she said. “This is where I belong. These are my people, and this is where I want to be.”