Officers welcomed by students and teachers at BIC Elementary
The new Commissioned School Security Officers (CSSO) at Buffalo Island Central Elementary in Leachville are a welcome presence among the students, teachers and staff.
The team includes Patrol Sgt. Steve Lancaster, Patrol Sgt. Larry Whitehead, and Lt. Chuck Brown (training officer with the Sheriff's Department and BIC), all with the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department.
The officers will be rotating their days off from the sheriff's department to be at BIC each day caring for the campus and the students.
Lancaster is serving as the director/manager of the CSSO program.
“There is a shortage of SRO officers and the Legislature acted on Act 393 allowing schools to establish their own security department,” Lancaster said. “This is a perfect fit with BIC for the Leachville campus.”
Lancaster did the research to establish the CSSO program. He modeled the program after a neighboring district which was established several years ago.
The officers began at BIC on Oct. 15 and it is amazing how well it has worked out, Lancaster said. All three officers are Leachville residents. They have attended or their children have attended BIC school. They all have a heart for the school and the kids.
“It is all about the kids,” Lancaster said.
Together the three officers bring 67 years of law enforcement experience to the campus. Whitehead has been in law enforcement for 17 years with Brown and Lancaster 25 years each.
Dr. Kima Stewart and Nicole Stewart, BIC elementary principals, are pleased with the new security department.
“It is comforting to have them here,” Stewart said. “In society today the officers may be a major factor in a kid getting a good education. You can't work and learn in fear or worry. It is a blessing and a relief to have them here. We can get back to teaching and letting them handle the safety issues. We can focus on academics.”
The officers are on campus each day when the first student arrives and remain until the last student leaves.
The new school and busses are well equipped with surveillance cameras. Officers are able to observe the campus day or night using digital technology.
“We are in the new building and the design lends itself to more security,” Dr. Stewart said. “With the new building, we have to rework our emergency drills. The officers will be a great help in establishing the final emergency drill plans including tornado, fire and earthquake drills. We will be rewriting and adopting a new crisis plan.”
The new safe room on campus holds over 500.
In addition to the new elementary building, the former building is being outsourced for different services and the officers routinely visit those, also.
“We love having them here,” Principal Nicole Stewart said. “They have helped us and they take a huge load off our minds.”
The elementary school is female dominant and both principals agree it is good to have positive male role models.
“One student has already asked if he could talk to an officer,” Dr. Stewart said. “He did not want to talk to me. They are making a connection. Some of the students were a little timid at first, but I think they are seeing them as helpmates and not a threat.”
Sgt. Lancaster said they appreciate Sheriff Dale Cook for his support.
“Sheriff Cook gave us his blessing to assist the school until the security department was established,” Lancaster said.
In addition to the security officers, the school also has the Craighead County DARE program for the fifth grade students.
Teacher Patty Qualls said, "We love having them here."
Another teacher, Stacey Qualls, said it makes the teachers feel more secure.
Several sixth grade students shared their comments about the officers on campus.
"You can talk to them if you are having troubles at school," Blaine said.
Dalton said if a teacher has to step out of the room they can cover the class until she returns.
Whitley said, "They make us feel a whole lot safer all around."
Caitlynn said, "They are very respective and friendly. They are kind to all of us."
Georgia said, "If we are not feeling safe or have a problem, they are here to help us. They make us all feel safer."