Feb 21, 2013 11:33 PM by Chris Welty

School Resources Officers Work to Make Campuses Safer

We've heard quite a bit about weapons on school campuses in the last few months across the nation and right here in Acadiana.

From the start of this school year to last week, 46 weapons have been found on Lafayette Parish school campuses. Twenty-eight of those were weapons like knives with a blade larger than two and a half inches and bee bee or pellet guns; eighteen were smaller pocketknives.

Last school year, 41 weapons were found on school campuses between
August 2011 and February 2012. School board representative Brandi Gonzales tells KATC, in the last seven years; only two firearms were brought on campus. Both of the guns were found at high schools and were not loaded.

School resource officers are one way schools are using to make sure campuses stay safe. KATC's Chris Welty followed one officer at one of the parish's biggest campuses to see how he's keeping students and teachers safe.

Making sure students are in class is only a portion of school resource officer Don Thibeaux's job. For eight years, he's patrolled Lafayette High's campus.

"I maintain high visibility, I try to be out for every lunch and just try to get to know the kids," said Thibeaux.

That's more than 2,400 students at LHS. Thibeaux's day starts at 6:30 making rounds and checking security areas. His smile and personality is reassuring to most students, making it easier for them to approach him.

"We get a lot of information from the kids and they have to feel comfortable to come to us."

One of Thibeaux's biggest challenges on campus is problems caused by social media. He says most students' issues develop off-campus but carry over to school property.

"A lot of kids just need someone to talk to. Any type of problem like homework, classroom problems, all the way up to something that's criminal."

For students and faculty at Lafayette High, Officer Thibeaux is much more than a policeman.

"He gives a lot of support. He'll ask what's going on, how you're doing, how's your grades, what's going on at home. It's very helpful and gives a lot of inspiration," said student Katelyn Velsom.

Officer Thibeaux is even credited for keeping some students off the streets and in the classroom.

"You've got to understand they're kids and they're going to have open minds. At times, you have to redirect them and let them know how important school is. We figure if they can graduate from high school, they can be successful in the real world."

The school resource officer program has been in full operation in Lafayette Parish for five years. Parish wide, there are 18 resource officers. The Lafayette Parish School System has also proposed a school safety package including installing cameras and alarm systems in all 42 schools. The plan also calls for six safety officers to add support to resource officers already on many campuses.

Chris Welty



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