Bellefonte police officers Shawn Luse and Mike Lyons are the school resources officers at Bellefonte Area School District. See photo gallery below for some images of their interaction with students and at our schools. The SRO program started at the district in the 2008-09 school year with officer Jason Brower. You may learn more, here: SRO program
District's SRO program important for safety, security and positive connections with the community
Normally, rules at Bellefonte Area Middle School include no running in the hallways. There was an exception, though – when indoor track practice was in session and students were sprinting down the hallway. School Resource Officer Shawn Luse even got in on the action that brought a lot of fun and laughs to the activity.
Luse is a longtime SRO at Bellefonte Area School District along with fellow Bellefonte police officer Mike Lyons. Together, they work to bring safety and security efforts to the district at all building levels. However, administrators said it’s their unparalleled relationships with students, staff and the community that makes the biggest difference.
“Something they’re too humble to talk about that is perhaps the most important is the relationship they’re building with kids,” high school Principal Mike Fedisson said. He was among a group of principals who spoke about the SROs at a board meeting in July 2020.
“In turn, what those relationships translate to is with families and in the community,” Fedisson added. “I can say whenever we’re at football games or basketball games (or elsewhere), there are students with them because they want to see and talk to them and there is a familiarity. I think as principals when we see some of the horrific things that (can) happen in schools, most of that comes back to a feeling of connectedness that those students don’t have, and we have two gentlemen we’re blessed to have that provide that.”
On any given day, the two SROs can be found at buildings within the district providing law enforcement, and safety and security checks by making sure doors are locked, providing employees and students with resources they need to feel and stay safe, and making sure things are in order. They facilitate drills such as ALICE training – alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate – and handles arrests, citations and home visits. They also often attend sporting events, pep rallies, senior awards and graduation, school assemblies and dances, and participate in in-service days with teachers during professional learning. Professional learning at the district provides education for professional staff facilitated by other district employees in their areas of expertise.
Luse and Lyons also provide added value to the classroom with efforts such as internet safety, alcohol and drug awareness, DUI, suicide awareness and more, and sit on district taskforces such as Schoolwide Safety, Student Safety, Risk Assessment and Crisis Team committees, and are some of the first people in the district to get alerts through applications Bellefonte Area is partnered with such as Safe2Say Something and Safe School helplines.
“A lot of things we ran into the last couple years is a trend of citations and arrests have gone down, and that’s our goal,” Luse said. “We talk about (philosophies) and help mentor elementary school students, so when they get to the middle school they’re starting to make a lot of decisions that impacts them in the long term that affects their lives.”
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“I attribute that to working with staff and teachers and parents who see that, as well,” Luse added. “(The students) don’t always agree with a plan, but we can mentor them through programs. Once they get to the high school, it’s about owning it and being held accountable for their actions, and we can get through it together. It’s amazing the input the students give back, too. They’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m having this problem. If I do (something), will I get in trouble?’ and we can talk them through it. We can say, ‘How about we figure this out,’ and the dynamic is changed and it’s a learning lesson.”
That “dynamic” is also what administrators said makes the SRO program an important part of the district.
“If you stop into officer Luse’s office, there is a giant whiteboard covered in student signatures, and that’s because when students stop by to say hi, they all want to sign it. That speaks to a huge testament to the relationships they built with students,” middle school Principal Sommer Garman said. “They’re going through the halls giving high-fives and saying hello, and that's part of the environment through and through, and there is nothing that could convince me we shouldn’t have SROs in our buildings. It’s not about arresting a child when they make a bad choice; it’s about the connections they have with our students and helping us brainstorm different ideas when needed. We all feel very strongly about their support and their relationship they built here with our students and staff.”
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD