ALEXANDRIA, Ky. (AP) — A unique program in northern Kentucky has police-trained volunteers helping to patrol hallways to keep students safe.
Alexandria Police Chief Mike Ward told The Kentucky Enquirer (http://bit.ly/17laSM7) that Volunteers In Police Service in Schools is the only initiative of its kind in the state and he plans to present it during the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October.
The program was put into place last spring in response to the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Eight volunteers, including Rodney Henson, went through seven weeks of training and patrol three schools.
Ward said volunteers have to make it through rigorous testing and submit to a drug screening, a criminal background check and a polygraph test in order to be approved.
"I've never had any tragedy affect me like the Connecticut shootings. It ripped my heart out," said Henson. "There's nothing more precious than innocent kids."
The volunteers were in schools for a month before classes ended, and were back this fall. Students were welcoming, stopping to give Henson hugs and high-fives.
Mayor Bill Rachford said those hugs are the reward for Henson and the other volunteers.
"Each volunteer has got one, and they say that's when they know they're in the right spot," he said. "I'm amazed at how a small agency can do this without adding a huge amount of expense."
Volunteers learn about all aspects of school patrol except weapons because they don't carry firearms
"There's a huge emphasis on social services and how to deal with at-risk kids," said Ward.
In addition, they are responsible for escorting visitors through the school and making sure classroom doors are closed and locked, in accordance with new Campbell County School District policies.
"As far as safety goes, they have really made an impact, especially making our dismissal process safer," said Stacie Hardy, Campbell Ridge Elementary assistant principal. "As far as student impact, I'd say it's important for the children to see someone from the community take time to take care of us. They get to see police officers, not as someone who gets the bad guys, but someone who helps people."
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com