By Jen Bakken
The addition of a school resource officer (SRO) to Delano Public Schools last year has been a helpful and positive resource for students, teachers, faculty, and parents.
Deputy Craig Burton came to the school through the SRO program, a nationally-accepted program involving the placement of a law enforcement officer within the educational environment.
Whether he is in plain clothes or in uniform, while on duty, Burton is armed, and his presence brings a sense of security to the school campus.
“School security has become an issue in recent years,” said Dr. John Sweet, Delano School District superintendent. “The school resource officer, along with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, has assisted us greatly in our crisis management procedures and training.”
Having a SRO is far more than just having visible and active law enforcement on campus.
Burton has become an important member of the faculty and administration team. Being a resource for students, teachers, faculty, and parents, he is also a useful classroom and counseling resource.
Teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program to middle school students is a responsibility Burton takes seriously and enjoys.
Having two daughters of his own who graduated from DARE, he feels strongly about the program, its purpose, and successes.
“I became aware of the DARE program when my daughters were in it,” Burton said. “I knew then, I wanted to be a part of it. It’s also a program Sheriff Gary Miller is a big supporter of.”
This is his third year teaching DARE, and his second year of teaching the program in Delano. Currently in the sixth week of the course, a lesson about the importance of good friends, students will graduate from DARE Wednesday, April 23.
Another thing Burton strives to do is bridge the gap between law enforcement officers and young people.
Being visible is a big part of his job, and he hopes to increase positive attitudes towards law enforcement.
“It’s not ‘them against us,’” he said. “I like to be there, be seen, do whatever it takes to build a rapport with students and put a friendly face with the badge.”
Being visible is not only beneficial in increasing safety or building positive relationships but it also helps to instill good citizenship.
In society, we have heard of people not wanting to get involved, but having an SRO accessible can cause things to be reported that otherwise may not have been.
Responding to criminal offenses is important, but being proactive and assisting in the prevention of crime is also important.
“We have a great district,” he said. “It’s important to maintain and keep that level of safety.”
The cost of the SRO program is shared between the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Delano, and the Delano School District. The school district’s share of the cost is approximately $12,825 per year.
“This is a great deal for the school district to receive full-time services of a police officer during the school year at this price,” Sweet said.
While Burton calls the public schools “his beat,” he is also able to work closely with the City of Delano and other deputies who patrol the area.
He drives an undercover vehicle, and will help with traffic issues as they arise during Highway 12 construction, making sure students get to and from school safely.
Burton enjoys working with children and now, in his second year in Delano Public Schools, he feels students are accepting him, as well.
He said being in plain clothes helps to put students at ease and the more they see him, the more comfortable they are.
Burton will also be involved in a mock crash Thursday, April 24 that is being sponsored by Delano Area Methamphetamine Education and Drug Awareness (MEADA).
Currently, Wright County has seven SROs located throughout the county including Delano, St. Michael-Albertville, Monticello, Maple Lake, and Dassel-Cokato schools, as well as one full-time DARE officer who travels the county.