Abbey Shilling – Mustangs Ahead
(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – A new school year means new expectations, new supplies, and new priorities; the one thing that remains steady is LRHS’s focus on the safety of its students.
At the end of last year, I had the privilege of taking a step into the life of the School Resource Officer (SRO) Manatee Sheriffs Deputy Paul Harris, and spending the day as his shadow was nothing short of enlightening and rewarding. It allowed for a brand-new understanding of how the school’s priority is keeping LRHS as safe as possible.
The day began with learning about the implemented procedures around campus, over 100 cameras now aid Harris in keeping a watchful eye on the hallways and entrances to the campus. Since he started here, Harris has ordered more cameras, which have resulted in a safer environment for all of Lakewood’s many students.
The next portion of the day consisted of keeping a watchful eye on the courtyard during bell changes and making sure that each and every student in the hall was accounted for. Nothing managed to escape his attention and his sole focus was the safety of the students.
During the short stretches of time that was spent in the office, mostly during classes, conversation turned to how Lakewood Ranch’s SRO came to call this his home.
Before coming to LRHS, Harris worked with Johnson Middle School, Horizons, and various elementary schools, in addition to his police work during each summer. When the time came for him to move to a high school he was more than happy to work at LRHS and plans to finish out his time as a resource officer with the LRHS family.
Harris believes in being a presence for more than times of emergency. In addition to his enforcement duties, he makes certain that LRHS students know the law and start walking the road to becoming positive members of society. Since his time here Harris has made it a priority to visit freshman classes at the beginning of each school year and inform students about the importance of safety, the law, and smart decision-making skills.
“It’s all about the presence – making people stop and think to help them avoid making bad decisions,” said Harris.
Harris doesn’t view himself as simply a bulldog enforcer or just the “face of the law;” to him it’s all about giving respect, fair chances, and working for and with the youths’ wellbeing in mind. He gets on a personal level with students and sees himself as a man who wears many hats, “protector, enforcer, and guidance counselor among others… I’m a resource officer; my job is to be a resource for the kids…”
Principal Craig Little commented on the many positive changes observed since Harris has joined the family, “[Deputy Harris] has done a great job building positive relationships with our students and staff, His insight on safety has been a real benefit to our school.”