Despite some budget roadblocks earlier this year on the concept, the new school resource officer took his place at Darien High School in time for school to start this week.
Officer James Palmieri started two weeks ago as the school’s first school resource officer. He will work with the administration, and meet with student and parent groups to find his place in the school community.
The police department allowed officers to apply for the position and Palmieri was chosen out of the group. He spent a week in Delaware training with the National School Resource Officer Association. Training covered how to interact with students and laws on privacy. Palmieri spent three years as a patrol officer in Darien. He worked with the Monroe Police Department before that.
Superintendent of Darien Schools, Dr. Stephen Falcone, explained that what the district needed was a person who could establish positive relationships within the high school, “clearly articulate ideas,” and act as a “liaison between the police community and the school community.”
“I think we found him,” Falcone added.
Students can look for Palmieri in his office or around the school. This week, he sat in on a freshman Spanish class and learned a few things.
Palmieri will get to know students by sitting in on classes, and attending dances and sports games. He has participated in the “Cops and Kids” Program at the Depot for two years. He will participate in the Youth Assistance Team at the high school, as well as other student and parent groups. He will be at the first Parents Association meeting on September 25.
Palmieri will also guest lecture in history and health classes where he can share information about the Constitution drug and alcohol use and other relevant subjects.
His job is to build relationships with students who might need his help in the future. He is also available to parents whose child might be struggling with issues that affect their schoolwork.
The administration and counselors will continue to handle school violations. Detectives Mark Cappelli and Sam Boccuzzi with the Department’s Youth Bureau will handle any legal issues. Palmieri said that it is not his job to investigate anyone.
Palmieri said that he heard parents were concerned about having a police officer at the school. Students are also curious about the police belt he wears, which holds a gun. Palmieri is part of the police department, rather than a school employee, so he keeps his gun to respond to possible emergency situations.
“They’re worried that I’m going to be here and keep my eye on the kids and make more arrests,” Palmieri said. “That’s not the case at all.”
He believes that being apart from the school district might allow some kids to be more open with him. On the other hand, Palmieri said he would try to dispel the image of the intimidating police officer. He said that he realized that as a patrol officer, he only came into contact with a student or their parents when they were in trouble.
“It’s nice to be able to deal with the kids and parents when they’re not in a bad situation,” he said. “People tend to act a certain way when you’re dealing with them [on patrol]. So this has been a refreshing thing for me too.”
As a part of the police force, Palmieri said that he might know more about a student’s situation outside of school than a teacher would. This can be helpful to bridge a gap between home and school life.
“I’m here to support the administration by getting involved if there are problems going on that are bigger than the school, like problems at home that are affecting school performance,” Palmieri said.
School resource officer’s are trained about information privacy so Palmieri is aware of the extent that he can share a student’s personal life with administration, or what the administration can ask him to share.
“The biggest thing I’m fighting right now is the unknown,” Palmieri said. “People aren’t sure what to expect. I think in a couple of months when people realize how the program is going to work, everybody’s going to be happy that I’m here.”