School Resource Officer Builds Relationships at LPS

School Resource Officer Builds Relationships
Posted on 01/24/2024

By Lori Sorenson, Rock County Star Herald

Rock County’s School Resource Officer Jeff Stratton updated Luverne City Council members on his role with local students during their meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 23.

“I’m building relationships with kids,” he told council members.

That’s specifically what he was hired to do when the program started with the 2022-23 school year. The goal was to have a liaison between the Sheriff’s Office and school districts to help students and families.

After only two months into the program, however, he got pulled from the schools when low staffing levels at the Sheriff’s Office required that he return to deputy duties.

This school year he’s been in the hallways and commons since August, and students recognize him and acknowledge him in the community.

“I think that’s what we’re measuring in building rapport,” Stratton said.

“This year has been good, because I’ve been there consistently.”

The $100,000 school resource officer budget is funded through a city, county and school agreement.

The city of Luverne agreed to fund a third of the program along with the county. The two schools’ costs are prorated as four days in Luverne and one day a week in H-BC.

To give more exposure in Hills, Stratton said he splits the one day in half and goes to Hills two half days. “It’s still four and one, but I get to be at both schools more often,” he said.

Stratton’s job is also to develop programs like school patrol, DARE (drug abuse resistance education) and ALICE (an intruder safety program), and he works with administrators on truancy and investigates criminal complaints involving juveniles.

During the school day, Stratton wears a “soft uniform” — a polo shirt, dress pants and a side arm. He wears his full uniform at events such as homecoming and prom.

During his Tuesday report to the council, Stratton praised the local school districts for their quality connections with students.

“We have great kids in the county,” he said. “I’m very fortunate that we do.”

He praised the school counselors for their efforts to help students, and he said he often gets involved with child protective services.

“This has been really good, because they have part of the story that I don’t have, and I have part of the story that they don’t have, so we’re able to truly get the best outcomes for the kids,” Stratton said.

On the lighter side, he said he’s enjoyed connecting with students in classrooms.

For example, when Luverne students were studying the Bill of Rights, Stratton spoke with them about law enforcement’s role in protecting civil rights.

He’s talked about drugs and alcohol in health classes.

“I did field sobriety on a couple kids when they had beer goggles on,” he said. “It was educational, but we did it with a fun atmosphere. Everyone likes watching people stumble with the beer goggles on, but we challenged them to ask questions.”

And he’s attended driver’s education classes. “I talk about common laws, things that we’re looking for, things they should be doing – obviously wearing seatbelts and watching their speed,” Stratton said.

But mostly, he said he circulates in hallways with students and generally makes himself visible.

“I hear that some SROs are just sitting in their offices, and I’m not that person,” Stratton said.

“I bought brand new shoes so I can get out and walk. I try to be in the halls as much as I can and interact with kids as much as I can. We’re trying to build those relationships, and any time I can be out and around them, I do it.”

He said he tries to loop through the elementary at least once a day so that younger students get familiar with him, but he focuses more on middle school and high school.

Council member Caroline Thorson, who is also a Luverne High School teacher, thanked Stratton for his efforts.

“I would just offer to my fellow council members that part of being an educator is building relationships,” Thorson said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Because I’m in the school, I get to witness the relationships that are forming between him and the students. … It puts law enforcement in a new light when you can have those relationships.”

She said it’s good to see that students have another trusted adult that they turn to if needed.

“I think the investment is worthwhile and the relationships that Officer Stratton is building with our students is priceless,” Thorson said.

“I’m glad that we made this investment and that the county and school made this investment.”

Stratton grew up in Luverne and graduated from LHS in 1998. He worked with his uncles at Cor-Tech Manufacturing until 2003 when he went back to school for a law enforcement career.

He worked near the Twin Cities for more than 14 years before he and his wife, Amy (an Adrian native), moved back to Rock County. They have three grown daughters.

Students with SRO

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