Bossier SROs have many roles, one big responsibility

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Bossier Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Gauthier, School Resource Officer for Benton High School, helps a student. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

School Resource Officers act as a liaison, counselor, and authority figure to students across Bossier

For thousands of students, the first adult they see every day at school is not a teacher, or principal. It is a School Resource Officer, like Bossier Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Gauthier.

Gauthier has spent several years as a School Resource Officer (SRO) in Bossier Parish Schools. He is currently at Benton High School. He describes the school as a “little city,” where he walks the halls and makes many positive contacts in a day, while he gets to know as many students as possible.

“If it’s just a normal day, you will catch me out here in these hallways. I may even poke my head into a classroom, I may go sit in a class. Wherever the kids are, that’s where I want to be. I want to be visible and accessible to the kids,” said Gauthier.

SROs are members of the law enforcement community who teach. These men and women receive training in counseling and other skills that help them be effective in a school setting. Part of a SRO’s job is building relationships with students and faculty, and the job sometimes means being present at extracurricular activities.

SROs also receive extensive training to be prepared for different kinds of crises, including an active shooter. The state of Louisiana requires schools to complete emergency preparedness drills. Bossier Parish requires each school to complete at least two emergency preparedness drills per year. These drills can include a lockdown, evacuation and sometimes a reverse evacuation. 

“We are immediate first responders for any and all critical incidents on campus, whether it’s an intruder, a student fight, or a health emergency. Having a SRO on the campus can eliminate several minutes of response time when seconds count. I can respond in the time it takes me to get down the hall,” said Gauthier. “I think it’s important for someone to be here and stand up and be that first responder.”

SROs are also part of education. SROs are often invited to be guest speakers in classrooms, where they provide law-related education to students, staff members, parents, and other community stakeholders. Officers teach juveniles about the importance of the justice system, respecting others and their property, and law enforcement career opportunities.

“We are a liaison between the school and police community. We not only enforce state and city laws, but provide campus security and intelligence. Our ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between adults and juveniles by developing a rapport. It takes time for kids to build trust,” said Gauthier. 

SROs are also informal counselors who work to build positive relationships with students, which reduces crime, drug abuse and violence in their community.

“Students will come to us seeking advice. If they are having problems at home, with other students, or life in general, we’re here for them,” said Gauthier.

The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office views the SRO Program as an opportunity to continue the strong partnership with the Bossier Parish School District and to provide a safe working and learning environment for teachers, support staff, administrators, and students. 

This year, the Bossier Sheriff’s office has nearly 50 deputies serving as SROs at Bossier Parish School campuses.

Those deputies are well-trained, P.O.S.T. – certified law enforcement officers, and Bossier Parish has the distinction of being only one of two parishes in the state of Louisiana to have such officers serving at every school in the district.

“Safety on our school campuses is very important, and we here in Bossier Parish are one of only two parishes in the state of Louisiana to have a law enforcement officer on every school campus, elementary, middle and high school,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.  “That says a lot about the support we have from our residents and the Bossier Parish School System.”