Once upon a time in a time removed from today … there was little thought to staffing public schools in rural districts with school resource officers.

Those times have changed.

Today we — and our students — know that there is a very real need for such staffing, and so we welcome Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kat Eller to Watauga County Schools, joining four colleagues as the current five officers serving our school system.

In the near future, planned grant help will increase our SRO team to seven, inching our county toward the goal of a SRO in each of our nine schools. And that’s a good thing.

Beyond the unthinkable — extreme violence — SROs such as Eller have proven to be valuable allies to our school system on many fronts, from patrolling the property with an eye on safety concerns to assisting with disciplinary actions such as bullying and harassment, and acting as positive role models for our young scholars.

Once, officers present at a school were likely there to present a brief DARE class, or rarely, to handle a law enforcement situation on the back end.

Today, most of our schools have the ability to be proactive on such issues and more. Our schools, and our children, are safer for this.

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