Education

Linn County school resource officer begins new school year with big goals

Deputy Kellie Hughes calls on a first-grader as she makes a presentation on stranger danger to students at Center Point-Urbana Elementary School in Center Point on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. Hughes is the school resource officer for five school districts in Linn County. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Deputy Kellie Hughes calls on a first-grader as she makes a presentation on stranger danger to students at Center Point-Urbana Elementary School in Center Point on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. Hughes is the school resource officer for five school districts in Linn County. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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One week into her first full year as the school resource officer of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Kellie Hughes has set some lofty goals for the coming months.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m ready to jump in and get to know these kids and get to know the schools.”

A school resource officer serves as the liaison between the school district and the sheriff’s office, Hughes said. Hughes is responsible for five school districts: Alburnett, Central City, Centerpoint-Urbana, Springville and North-Linn.

“It’s my job to sort of bridge the gap between the kids and law enforcement,” she said. “I’ll interact with the kids and show them that they can have positive interactions with law enforcement since most of those that have interacted with us, have likely only interacted with us during a crisis.”

Additionally, Hughes said she sees her role as one of a mentor and educator, teaching students about laws and the consequences of breaking laws, as well as how to stay safe and on the right track. “I’m very passionate about keeping our schools safe,” she said. “I want these kids to get to know me and feel like they can come to me if they need to talk about problems or concerns.”

In gaining the trust of the students, educating them, making herself available to them and intervening when she, teachers or classmates notice a student in crisis, Hughes said she hopes she can prevent school violence and reduce juvenile crime and arrests.

“Parents expect their kids to be safe at school,” she said. “They’ve given us this precious gift — their kids — and those kids should not be afraid of coming to school. It’s my job and that of the teachers to keep the kids safe and to ensure parents feel good about sending their children to school.”

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Over the course of the school year, Hughes said she will conduct educational programs covering a wide variety of topics, including safety and “stranger danger,” gun safety, bullying and cyberbullying, and internet safety. For older students, Hughes said she’s also planning lessons about laws, the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the dangers of sending sexually suggestive or explicit text messages, often called sexting.

Hughes said she plans to take an “education first,” approach when dealing with students who get into trouble or commit less serious crimes.

Hughes has been with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office for about 17 years, she said. She’s also been a paramedic for about 18 years. During her career, Hughes has worked as a jail officer, a paramedic with Linn County’s Rescue 57, a courthouse transport officer and a patrol officer. Being a school resource officer is a new venture she’s been eager to take on.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” she said. “I’ve done the lights and sirens thing, and I’ve seen plenty of sad and tragic things as a paramedic. But this is an entirely different type of policing, and I’m really excited about it.”

Working with students, she said, is her most exciting assignment yet.

“The kids really make my day,” she added. “When you’re walking down the hall and the kids recognize you and they’re excited to see you, or want to give you a high-five, how can you not smile. It doesn’t get better than that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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