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December 2015

Getting to Know our SRO

This month I had the opportunity to sit down with our School Resource Officer (SRO), Officer Steven Binette, to talk about the role of the SRO in our schools. Officer Binette has been a police officer for over twenty years but he began his role as our SRO at the start of this school year. The text below is not verbatim but captures the essence of our conversation.

Q: How does a police officer become an SRO?

A: I spent two weeks at the Connecticut Police Training Academy learning how to be an SRO. During the training we covered topics specific to working with teens. We examined topics like building relationships and communication skills, dealing with peer pressure, and ways to identify and eliminate bullying. Another one of the major responsibilities of an SRO is to teach the program called DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to students in the fifth grade. Therefore, the training focused on learning how to teach the DARE curriculum and work with that age group.

Q: Tell me more about DARE.

A: DARE is a ten-week program for students between ten and thirteen years old. The DARE curriculum is designed to provide students with strategies to use when dealing with difficult situations that our children confront. The goal is to work with students early and be an additional positive influence and role model for our students. I will spend about 45 minutes in each of our 5th grade classrooms on ten separate occasions throughout the school year. At the end of the year the students “graduate” from the program and we celebrate the learning our students have accomplished through the program.

Q: You have been a police officer for over 20 years. Besides all of that experience, what additional training do you have as a police officer?

A: Before I became a police officer, I was in the Marine Corps for six years. For two of those six years I was stationed at the Panama Canal and provided security as a Military Police (MP) officer. I became a full-time police officer in Waterbury in 1992. While in Waterbury, I was a member of the SWAT Team as a certified sniper. I also worked in the Gang Unit and the Tactical Narcotics Team. I also spent seven years in the Waterbury Police force teaching Defensive Tactics to other police officers.

Q: What do you see as the most important roles you play in our schools?

A: Security is the most important role I play. I can access the security cameras at each of our schools. I am also working with the building administration here at THS to review safety and security practices and procedures to make sure we have the best practices in place. I will do the same at all of our schools. We also pay attention to our building through the cameras and visual looks to see who is on our school property. I make it a point to be visible and a part of the school community. I am in the hallways and cafeteria throughout the day. I also get out to as many school activities as I can as well; I am always opening my wallet to pay for some fundraising event as well (laughing). A number of kids start their day by connecting with me before class. If it’s not the beginning of the day, they connect at some point later. Developing positive personal relationships with the students and teachers is an important part of providing for a safe and happy school.

Q: I know you mentioned that you spend time at the elementary schools for the DARE program, do you spend any additional time at the elementary or middle schools?

A: I do. I make it a point to swing by each of the schools from time to time just to show my face and check to see if there are any security concerns. The students in the elementary schools are getting to know me and I will continue to get to know them as they move through middle school and the high school. I really like the new entrances at each of the elementary schools. If a parent is dropping off sneakers for his/her child, they can do so without ever entering the building. As I said earlier, I have access to the cameras at all buildings so I can check on things even if I am not physically at the building. I appreciated the time that Officer Binette provided to me for this article. As the Superintendent of Schools and a parent, I appreciate the work of our police department and especially SRO Binette in protecting and serving our community. I look forward to our continued partnership with the police department and to find additional ways to enhance the safety of our buildings.

By Dr. Martin Semmel,

Superintendent of Schools

Plymouth, CT

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