Kleinfeldt said they have taken advantage of other opportunities to interact as well. He said one officer did a pennies for charity fundraiser with Lakota kids, guaranteeing that if they raised enough money he would dress up like “Elf” from the movie. Officers also participate in the “Be the Difference” mentoring program at the high school.
He said the five Lakota SROs aren’t just there to respond to threats in the West Chester schools — the sheriff has SROs in the Liberty Twp. Lakota schools — but to reach beyond the confines of the buildings.
“That’s kind of another goal of being in the schools and that comfort factor, is these kids that may be emotionally or physically abused at home, get them more comfortable with interacting with officers so that they’ll report these incidents,” he said. “Or if they don’t report, they still have that familiarity that when Lakota administration steps in and says we need to get this child some help, they might open up a little more to the officers.”
Hopewell Principal Jeff Rouff said the dodge ball tournament has actually been going on for about a dozen years. It started as a fundraising event for a teacher who had a significant house fire. He said they also have a teacher team that participates in the tournament, but having the cops dodge and weave is special for the students.
MORE: Police officers create video to teach Lakota students ‘Stranger Danger’
“It lets the kids see them in a playful light, which is important,” Rouff said. “We’re in year three or four with the SROs. In the past you would see an SRO in your building or a police officer and you’d think, ‘What’s wrong?’ Now it’s a little more normal and comfortable. But I think the bigger piece now is let’s build these relationships and they (the SROs) want to build those relationships beyond just when they are needed.”