In new program, deputies visit schools every day

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Deputy Bill Hardy walked around Booker T. Washington Elementary School Tuesday morning before buses arrived, greeting teachers with a cheery “Good morning” and students with high-fives.

When buses arrived, he stood outside the doors to the bus loop and offered an endless string of hugs and high-fives to the swarm of students, stopping to remind young men to take off their hats and to cheer up a student who was upset.

Just a few minutes later, Deputy Troy Babb walked around Kilby Shores Elementary School, making sure all the back doors were locked now that classes had started and checking behind the school’s mobile units, ensuring nobody was hanging out in the brush. On his way out through the office, he handed a pencil to a student arriving late with his dad.

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The visits were a part of the sheriff’s office’s new Deputy Outreach to Students and Staff program, instituted by new Sheriff E.C. Harris in February.

Deputies who ordinarily spend their days serving civil process papers have worked the school visits into their regular schedules, Harris said. He feels it’s an important community service.

“I think we’re losing our kids in the elementary school level,” Harris said. “We need to get in there.”

Harris said he feels that the school visits will benefit children who don’t have another role model in their life.

“It instills some trust in law enforcement,” he said. “We make sure someone goes every day. I don’t want a break in the routine. These kids are looking for us.”

While in the schools, the deputies are able to interact with students and teachers, provide minor corrections to students who are acting up and solve other problems. The mere presence of the vehicle at the schools, especially in the mornings, has even helped calm parking and speeding problems.

Deputy Hardy agreed that the program is helping students.

“When we first went there, the kids were all standoffish,” he said. “Now, it’s just the opposite. We went from the fear stance to open-armed hugs.”

Hardy said he looks for particular children who he knows need a little extra attention.

“I get to talk to kids,” he said. “I let them know, ‘I care about you, and I’m coming back to see you.’”

Lori Mounie, principal at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, said she appreciates the program.

“It’s nice to have his presence in the building in the morning,” she said. “He always asks if there’s anything or anyone he can assist me with.”

Lorri Banks, principal at Kilby Shores Elementary School, agreed.

“I love this program,” she said. “Usually when kids see law enforcement officers, it’s a problem. If you see them in a different light, as a friend, it makes a bigger difference.”

Babb said the program is helping kids.

“We’re trying to make an impact at a young age,” he said.