The DeKalb County Schools are a few weeks into the new school year and the county School Resource Officers have been busy with a new project.
This year the county schools have implemented a Career and Technical Education class in Criminal Justice giving high school students the chance to learn technical skills and training to prepare them for college and future careers.
SRO Priscilla Padgett, of Fyffe High School, said that school SROs are teaching the Criminal Justice class at their assigned school.
According to Padgett, each SRO teaches one period a day to allow them to still carry out their daily SRO duties.
Padgett said the new Intro into Criminal Justice class is its own high school class as well as a part of the Sheriff Beyond D.A.R.E program.
“The program we are running is similar to a police academy type program,” she said.
She said students are taught some of the same types of training that’s found at the academy; however, the program is not limited to careers in law enforcement.
“We are also exploring other careers [including] any careers in public service,” Padgett said.
Padgett said the classes are offered at the high school to allow students who can’t go off campus to take them.
She said for students who have schedules that don’t allow for them to go to tech school; this is a one-period class that’s taught at the high school they can take.
“I think it's a great asset for those kids who don’t have it in their schedule to travel off-campus,” Padgett said.
This first year, the SRO will be working out the kinks as well as planning and working through the curriculum.
“This year is like our pilot year,” she said. “They gave us our curriculum guide, and as of right now, each teacher is gathering the things that they need.”
Padgett said the SRO is teamed up with another teacher that doesn’t have a class during that period, and in the event of the SRO being called to duty, the teacher can take over.
“That’s worked out really well,” she said. “I am teamed up with Coach King at Fyffe, so if there is a time I am called out, he comes in and takes over,” she said.
At Fyffe High School, the class is only offered to seniors, and there is a limit to the number of students who can take the course.
“Next year we are hoping to be able to offer it to 10th, 11th and 12th-graders,” Padgett said.
Padgett said more seniors wanted to take the class, but due to the scheduling of their core classes, they were not able to.
“The class is only offered in the first period, so there was a conflict in schedules for some,” she said.
Padgett said they are limiting the class to 15 students due to the many hands-on activities and patrol techniques they will be conducting.
“I have 10 students right now, and it's going great,” she said. “The kids I have enrolled love it.”
The full course requires three years in all to complete. However, the students receive a CTE elective credit for taking it.
At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, the board approved the request to send the SROs to the second round of the Criminal Justice education training in September.
“They [the SROs] have already attended the first round,” said Chief Deputy Brad Gregg.
Gregg said there are six steps to the training and the SROs have already completed some of those steps, and some are done online before going to the classes.
DeKalb County Superintendent Jason Barnett confirmed the presence of an SRO in every school including the tech-school at Tuesdays board of education meeting.
According to Padgett, there is a fee for students taking the class, but from that fee, the student receives a T-shirt and a polo shirt for field trips and training events.
"We're going to get to do a lot of hands-on experience,” she said
Also, she is planning trips to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and the courthouse.
"Maybe [the class can] sit in on some court hearings and things like that," she said.
Padgett said they are also hoping to possibly take a trip to the police academy at Jacksonville State University.
“We have a lot of great support," she said.
Padgett said she is thankful for DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden for getting the program in place.
“Sheriff Nick Welden has done an excellent job seeing his vision for our youth come to light,” Padgett said.
She also thanked the DeKalb County Board of Education, Superintendent Jason Barnett and Johnathan Phillips for stating it. She said without their support and guidance, the program would not exist.
“I am very happy to be a small part of this avenue for our kids,” she said. “I am especially proud that my son, a senior at Fyffe High School, Logan Padgett, gets this opportunity,” she said.
Padgett said Logan plans to follow her footsteps and become a law enforcement officer.
“I see great things in place for the future of our children here in DeKalb County,” she said.