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Vaping, suicidal thoughts: SROs' top concerns for elementary students

School Resource Officers are training how to identify drug use, isolation in young kids
Posted at 9:02 PM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 23:02:20-04

FOUNTAIN — School Resource Officers are trained to jump into action to protect students and staff from an outside threat, but they are now training to recognize new dangers young students face - including drug and alcohol use, and suicidal thoughts, to name a few.

"We had a 3rd grader come to school with a vape at one of my other elementaries this year ... These kids, they're modeling off what they see. So if they want to be cool like their parents ... they are going to vape. The marijuana at the middle school level would shock you," said Geri Reble, a school resource officer in Fountain.

Reble, who works at Mesa Elementary, joined a statewide training held by the National Association of School Resource Officers in Thornton, Colorado to learn how best to handle the heavy topics more kids are facing at a younger age.

Oftentimes, it's not drug use by the child but by their parents that is affecting their performance and behavior at school.

"There's a young man in my school that I'd do his laundry every day because he smelled like marijuana every single day. And knowing how mean kids are, I don't need this kid being picked on because he smelled like marijuana because mom and dad won't stop," said Corporal Don Klinge.

Klinge works as an SRO at Jordahl Elementary in Fountain and considers his role as a guardian and resource to kids both on and off school grounds.

"If I'm driving down the road in my patrol car and there's a kid playing basketball, I'm going to stop. And this particular kid, he says, 'Hey, I see you have some chips in the back of your car, can I get some?' He was hungry," Klinge said.

Beyond the financial and family relationships that can weigh on kids, many are routinely exposed to adult content social media, which Klinge notices have manifested for kids at school including online bullying, body shaming, and feelings of despair.

"We do risk assessments in our District on a daily basis, for kids who say, 'I don't want to be here anymore' For kids who come to school with bruises or injuries on their face or even kids who are leaving campus ... yeah, I really blame a lot of it on social media," Reble said.

Both Fountain SROs agree their roles are to protect and build relationships in their community so they can offer help on any day, not only on the worst day.

Fountain was not the only district to take part in the NASRO training ahead of the school year. Other attendees hailed from Colorado Springs Police and Pueblo Police departments.

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