Connor Foley is the School Resource Officer (SRO) for Gallatin High School and shares what it's like to patrol one of the Bozeman School District's biggest schools.
Officer Foley has been an SRO for about 2 years and he believes having an officer in school patrolling is a great safety measure.
“I chose to be an SRO because it's nice to get to know a smaller community that you actually see every day,” says Foley. “For the police department, it's obviously an essential position because it takes that time from patrol officers when a SRO is here in the building, they're not having to respond. There's a lot of opinions where people would think that, what we're here is just write students as many tickets as we can, and that's not what we do at all.
The Bozeman Elementary School and High School districts are requesting safety levies for the upcoming election. The purpose in running these safety levies is to find a dedicated revenue source for their safety-related costs which includes SRO's and counselors.
The objective is to take the SRO's and counselors out to the general fund and tie them to these new safety levies which would free up some breathing room in the general fund budget to keep more certified teaching staff.
Officer Foley says SRO's like himself do a lot for not only the school as a whole, but individual students as well.
“A student that was really struggling with attendance, really struggling with grades, staying focused, and they had a lot going on outside of school as well," says Officer Foley, "Because of their attendance, they had to be cited for truancy and it was a complete shift in their behavior. Like juvenile probation deserves a lot of credit for maintaining some form of structure outside of school, but that person completely changed their whole demeanor, their attitude toward school.”
He says being an SRO doesn't come without struggles. One of his biggest obstacles is to shift the usual student perception of law enforcement.
"The struggle is, is to build those relationships and maintain them," says Officer Foley. “Identifying students that are struggling, identifying possible security risks. We work with the school district to have threat assessments for students that might be considered high risk and maintain some sort of security plan."
For Officer Foley, his job shows the partnership between Bozeman Schools and law enforcement, as well as keeping the students of Gallatin High safe.
"I love it. Bozeman School District is so aligned with Bozeman P.D.," says Foley. "Their partnership is so strong that there's never any, you know, clashing egos or butting heads. I mean, we truly do share all of our information.”
If these safety levies do not pass, SRO's and counselors will remain in the general fund, but more certified teaching staff will have to be eliminated.