MILTON — School Resource Officer Kendra Raymond wears a lot of hats. Every day for the last three years, she’s been not only a law enforcement officer, but a teacher and a counselor.
She’s proud to act in all three of those roles, which she calls the SRO triad.
“When I first became a police officer, I was given a gun, a badge, I liked to go fast with the blue lights on,” she said. “Now, as an SRO, I am a resource to the schools. The way that they accepted me, I feel like a staff member.”
During the April 13 meeting of Milton's Police Advisory Committee, Raymond shared some of the recent ways she’s interacted with students in the Milton Town School District.
Visiting classrooms of all ages
It’s always been easy for Raymond to visit with elementary classes, because she can join in on storytime or take students on a tour of her police cruiser. Around Halloween, she talks about stranger-danger and in the warmer months, she talks about bike safety.
“It can be a little bit more challenging to get into a high school classroom because teachers already have their curriculum set for the year,” she said. “But I give the high school principals credit, they sit down with me at least once a week and help me find ways to connect with certain teachers. We get pretty creative.”
This year, Raymond joined high school physical education classes to talk about what the fitness standards are for police officers. She even put students through push-up tests.
Raymond also helped conduct a blood splatter lab in a high school science class.
“I'm not a teacher, that’s not something I really know a lot about, but it got me to be one-on-one with a student and we worked on the lab together,” she said.
Raymond joins Driver's Education courses at least three times a semester. She discusses what happens during a traffic stop, how both the driver and the officer should act.
She also always gives a presentation about Driving Under the Influence. Students wear DUI goggles, so they can see how their vision could be altered under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“I explain to them, ‘I'm in here because I want you to succeed,’” she said. “I'm in there as a teacher wearing that hat. I'm not there to figure out who is speeding after school and who's not wearing their seatbelt.”
Riding the school bus
Earlier this month, Raymond rode the school bus with students to serve as a presence of authority, but also to observe how drivers interact with the bus.
“I was there looking for violations, like people going through the bus’ red lights, while another officer remained in the area and helped pull those cars over,” she said.
Adapting safety drills for COVID
Each year, all Vermont schools, whether public or private, must conduct six evacuation drills and five lockdown drills.
Typically during lockdown drills, students gather close together in classrooms, but due to COVID restrictions, that was not possible this year. Instead, the state required schools to facilitate at least two educational programs about lockdowns.
“I was able to get into classrooms and answer questions and have discussions with students,” Raymond said. “Personally I like doing this better, because it gives me more face time with kids. When we were just doing the drills, there were no questions, no answers.”
To some age groups, a guidance counselor accompanied Raymond, to provide extra support with these difficult, and often scary, conversations.
For about two years now, Raymond has been teaching Milton students, faculty and staff the ALICE approach to dealing with active intruders — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
“We want kids taking proactive action and not just sitting in classrooms like sitting ducks,” Raymond said. “It’s been found over the years that at some school shootings, particularly Columbine, more students would have survived if they literally just exited the building about 15 feet...Now, we are teaching kids if you are near a door, we want you to go out the door.”
Last year, she presented the ALICE approach to all faculty during an in-service day. Raymond walked faculty through different scenarios, ran them through drills and helped them practice techniques.
“We ran through what it would look like...to counter, to actually fight somebody and what it would look like to be evacuated,” she said. “We used staff members as role players, while all the other faculty and staff sat in the bleachers and watched.”
Having conversations about lockdowns and active intruders this year gave students the opportunity to express their own concerns, Raymond said. For example, some students asked how they should evacuate from a school building’s second story. They asked about ladders, which Raymond said the schools don’t have.
Classrooms also lack buckets, which could be used by students to relieve themselves in an emergency. Former SRO Sergeant Scott Philbrook advocated for these buckets to be added nearly four years ago, Raymond said, and she still is.
“During the last safety meeting we had, which was yesterday, I brought it up,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like we just go round and round and round. We spend time deciding what should go in that bucket, and then once we agree on it, we all look at each other and say, ‘well who's going to pay.’ And that's where it ends, that's where it stops.”
Chief Stephen Laroche said because of COVID, it has been some time since he and Milton’s Public Safety Director met with Superintendent Amy Rex to discuss safety.
At their last meeting — which was before the hiring of Public Safety Director Michaela Foody about one year ago — Laroche said the group discussed the need to renumber classroom doors and for the police department to acquire updated building maps.
“If you have officers responding from different police agencies, and you tell them you want them to go to the north side of the building, and enter through door number two, well, we discovered the doors didn't have any numbers. We had classrooms with the same numbers on different floors. They had the old numbers and new numbers and no one took the time to renumber the interior of the building,” Laroche said.
Laroche said those safety meetings and projects need to resume as soon as possible.