Area Catholic schools now have their own resource officer. Here are her plans.
Originally Posted on www.heraldnews.com
by Audrey Cooney
FALL RIVER — In a time where many schools are taking a serious look at their approach to school safety, area Catholic schools are getting their first-ever resource officer.
“As a parent now, I can understand the importance of feeling comfortable sending your child to school and feeling that they’re gonna be OK and be safe,” said Christine Leeman.
Last month, Leeman joined the Diocese of Fall River as its resource officer, a newly created position. The diocese extends down through Cape Cod and as far west as Attleboro and oversees 19 Catholic schools.
Dan Roy, superintendent of Fall River Diocesan schools, said plans to hire a resource officer have been in the works since before the Uvalde shooting, which saw a gunmen kill 21 people in a Texas elementary school this past May.
“I think the school safety and security questions have been big questions for a long time,” he said.
In many districts, a typical school resource officer is a member of the local police department and assigned to one or a few schools, where they investigate potential crimes and enforce laws while on school grounds. Leeman, who has some law enforcement training as a former deputy sheriff in the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, is working as an unarmed civilian and will work with all 19 schools that the diocese operates.
“We see this person not as a traditional SRO but instead as a diocesan resource for our schools,” said Roy.
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Prevention and intervention are vital
Most recently, Leeman worked as Manager of Public Safety Education for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, where she mostly worked to educate young people on topics like bullying, harassment, situational awareness and the dangers of social media.
She plans to do similar education for students in her new role and to help train staff in things like active shooter drills and warning signs for potential violence.
“Prevention and intervention is definitely huge in this position,” she said. “If we pay attention more, by knowing what to look out for, a lot of times we can prevent things from happening.”
While not her only focus, the potential for a school shooting will be a big topic Leeman plans to work on.
A liaison between Catholic schools and police departments
She intends to work as a liaison between area Catholic schools and the individual police departments in each town or city they operate in, and to take over coordinating safety planning for schools.
“I’ll essentially be trying to create a safer environment for students and staff by ensuring that all safety measures are implemented, trying to make it as seamless a possible in responding to security events and incidents,” she said.
Leeman lives in Fairhaven with her family, including her 1-year-old daughter.
“One day, God willing, my daughter will be walking the halls of one of these schools,” she said. “I want to know I did everything I could to prepare her and prepare the staff around her for any situation that could come her way.”