Q: With school starting back this month, can you give us some information about your office’s Youth Resource Deputies?
A: First, I’d like to challenge our students and families to meet our Youth Resource Deputies in their area schools. They are very approachable; introduce yourselves and get to know them.
We have 56 deputies assigned to our Youth Resource Division under Captain Peggy Tennyson. Included in the 56 deputies are Lt. David Tarbert and Lt. Wes Kennedy. Additionally reporting to Capt. Tennyson are our school crossing guards. We have 73 crossing guards who are part time and seasonal and two supervisors, Nick Dekrell and Nancy Heburn.
Our Youth Resource Officers are assigned to 40 public schools; there are a total of 43 schools, but three of them are within the city limits of St. Augustine, so they are covered by deputies with the City of St. Augustine Police Department.
Q: Will you be making any changes this year?
A: Different this year will be that within the 56 deputies, some will be “floaters.” All high schools will have one assigned deputy plus one floater. Our goal is to have two Youth Resource Deputies at each high school.
Q: How does your office view its role in protecting our schools?
A: It’s all about partnerships. We have a partnership with the St. Johns County School District to work hand-in-hand and provide expertise on the security of each individual school. We want to have a partnership with our families and students, who need to know that we have safe spaces for learning, but if anyone sees anything suspicious, they need to let us know and let us triage. Call either the non-emergency number, (904) 824-8304 or 911 immediately and provide us with as much information as possible as soon as possible. Our deputy sheriffs have lots of training and are well armed and equipped — but it’s still a partnership and this is where getting to know and form a relationship with the Youth Resource Officer is so important.
Q: Do you have any safety tips for Back to School?
A: I encourage all community members to sign up for the Fortify Florida app (www.getfortifyfl.com) where you can report a tip or call 911, which immediately is routed to our emergency communications center.
As the school year approaches, let’s not get complacent. I’d like to remind school employees and volunteers to ensure that their school is secured at all times. Parents, please plan your route to school and leave in plenty of time so that you are not rushing or speeding to get there. Plan for how to meet and get in touch with your children after school. Be open, honest and transparent in discussions with your children and advise them to always pay attention to their surroundings.
If you see something (person, place or thing) that is suspicious, call us immediately or tell a school employee.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you with any questions or suggestions about this article?
A: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (904) 824-8304. Also, our website, www.sjso.org has a wealth of resources.