Van Beek: Protecting our children | VailDaily.com

Van Beek: Protecting our children

Excitement is in the air — leaves are beginning to change color, end-of-summer vacations are being planned, camping gear is heading for storage, and everyone is getting excited about snow. Part of that anticipation includes back-to-school.

Parents gear up for sports and academic activities, preparing for the complex social schedules of multiple children, standing in long lines for school supplies, and a thankful return to routine. Students are thrilled for new beginnings, catching up with old friends, challenging authority, and all of the wonderful experiences that create memories of a lifetime.

Keeping schools safe

Of course, we must now remind ourselves of all of the safety issues that occur during this time of year. Special care around a school zone is essential because children are often distracted playing outdoor games, running toward friends, arguing about who sits in the front seat, or, for older kids, texting. While we continually remind them to be cautious, they are kids and will often act first and think later. Thus, as adults, we must be exceptionally careful, expecting kids to run out between cars or trees, like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner.

When we leave our children at school, it’s nice to know that we have neighbors and friends looking after them.  School resource officers all have strong community connections and request to work with the children of this county.  The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, the school district, and the local police departments, all provide funding to make sure our schools are safe havens for learning and growing.

These professionals dedicate their days to being there for our students.  When a child is nervous about discussing an issue with teachers or simply needs guidance on how to approach a parent on a sensitive situation, the SROs are available to provide objective feedback.  If a child is scared about bullying or other social issues, the SRO can offer direction and when needed, protection. The SRO is also a liaison between students, families, and social agencies, which can provide them with needed services. 

At a time of growing insecurity across the nation, we are fortunate in Eagle County to have a community that takes care of one another. With teachers focused on creating an academic environment that supports the diversity of its student body, and administrations which work at improving the academic experience for all, while meeting strict guidelines, and counselors who are in charge of multiple areas for a large number of students, the SRO fills the gap. 

A vested interest in your kids

Naturally, SROs provide physical security on campus, but it is their love of kids that drives them to go above and beyond all expectations. You will notice their cars because they have bumper stickers with their school’s name and mascot all over them. 

They are at every event and are often indistinguishable from students and enthusiastic parents. They have a vested interest in the students they’ve come to know and care about. These children are now family … they spend most of their waking hours under the same roof, eating the same food, teaching safety courses, attending the same events, mediating conflict, encouraging success.  They spend time with families to discuss concerns and provide meaningful direction. They seek to provide leadership and support for the entire school community. 

Please introduce yourselves to your local school resource officer.

With the Sheriff’s Office, our east end of the valley has Megan Heil and Josiah Hart, and the west end has Tad Deagan. In addition, the Vail Police Department has Melissa Metcalfe. Eric Benson and Bal Herrera are with the Avon Police Department. The Eagle Police Department has Colleen Gaspard.  And, the Basalt Police Department has Tomas Wright. 

With school being the place where our children spend most of their waking hours, it is important that there be multiple adults to which students may turn for guidance or help. Each of these officers has a personal connection to the schools they serve. They each bring unique qualities to their positions and all would lay down their lives for your children. You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated crew of professionals. 

No child should ever feel alone. Between parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, administrators, security personnel, and others, our children will have the wonderful educational experience that they deserve, and parents can rest assured that their young ones are safe. 

On behalf of the team of all the professionals working in our schools … Welcome to fall 2019!

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.