By: Sarah Snyder
MIDLAND - Forget the principal's office. The Midland School District has started a new way of dealing with troubled students and it's police officers who are making the biggest impact. A new mentoring program is revolutionizing campus crime calls just like Wednesday's gun scare at Midland High.
The School District is identifying what they call students at risk - meaning kids who seem to have behavioral problems and a history of getting in trouble. Then they match those kids with an MISD police officer who spends every week, and sometimes every day, mentoring them one-on-one.
"We really want to take on the harder cases because it's a challenge for us and we feel that those are the students we can have a bigger impact with," Chief David Colburn with the MISD Police, said.
Those "hard cases" could be anything from a gun on campus to a student not showing up for class. But this year, MISD officers decided to start mentoring each one.
"They warm up pretty quick and it's a great relationship between the officer and that student," Colburn said.
"This is important to the district, because it affects our dropout rate, it affects the local crime rate and it affects so many things in the city," Lena Davis, Director of the District Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, said. "It's important for us to reach the students now so that they will not be a statistic later."
School leaders say this system is changing the image of a police officer from "enforcer" to "counselor."
"Every student that has been through the program, we have seen an improvement in their behavior," Davis said. "Every single one. It is helping. I wish we had more officers because I can see this program growing big."
District police say this new mentoring method is not only benefiting students, it's helping the officers better understand who the students are that they serve.
"A lot of times these students come from rough backgrounds and they're not used to people paying attention to them," Chief Colburn said. "A lot of times our officers can tell stories from their childhood and the run-ins they had with teachers and administrators and what they did to overcome those issues."
Now that the program is in its second semester, campus police are planning a new character and ethics seminar next week for the students and their parents. It's a chance to work through issues, answer questions, and strengthen the family bond too.