Back to school
While kids everywhere slipped into their new outfits for their first day of school last week, Officer Jenna Lee suited up for her own first day of school as the new School Resource Officer (SRO) for the Sparta Area School District.
With the first week of school under her belt, Officer Lee is looking forward to being a part of the school district and cheering on the students she’ll be working with.
“I’ve always known that I want to work with people and try to make a difference. I just sort of fell into the role of a police officer,” Officer Lee said. “I knew I liked criminal justice, I just wasn’t really sure which road I was going to go down.”
Officer Lee, who is originally from the Eau Claire area, majored in sociology and minored in criminal justice at University of Wisconsin – River Falls. She ended up attending the Law Enforcement Academy at Chippewa Valley Technical College and was hired by the City of Sparta.
“I’ve loved it ever since,” she said, adding she has been with the Sparta Police Department for the past eight years.
Officer Lee applied for the position after the former SRO, Officer Kyle Seubert, made the move back to patrol. Officer Lee says she has always enjoyed working with kids and it is one of her favorite parts of being a police officer.
“I thought working in the schools would be a good way to help make a difference in these kids’ lives,” she said, adding she wants to be able to eat lunch with the kids and play with them at recess. “Being able to make that connection is a big thing for me, because then they know they can come talk to me if they don’t feel comfortable talking to someone else.”
One of Officer Lee’s biggest goals with her new position is to be a good role model and someone the kids can look up to.
“When I’m working patrol I don’t get to see kids as much,” she said. “I’m out interacting with the whole community, but working in the school is like working in a mini community within that larger community.”
Officer Lee added that when officers are responding to calls, there isn’t a lot of time to interact with any possible children involved in the incident. “In the school, if I need to or want to, I can sit down and talk to a kid about an incident and try and help them through it, even if they weren’t directly involved.”
Officer Lee will be working with approximately 3,000 students at all 12 schools currently in the district.
“My goal is to get to every school during the week and spend as much time as I can at each of the schools,” she said. “I want to be as proactive as I can so if I know there is something going on in the Sparta area I want to make our community, children, teachers and staff as knowledgeable as possible.”
As the new SRO, Officer Lee is still dealing with a lot of the same issues as she would out in the larger community, but one of the bigger issues in schools nationwide is vaping.
Officer Lee would also like to try to incorporate a lot more teaching within her position, such as bike safety and Internet safety, as well as drug and alcohol related issues.
“Anything that can help benefit the students I want to be able to come into the classroom and be able to talk to staff and students about those issues,” Officer Lee said, adding that some of her training and the issues she is equipped to handle carry over into the schools.
Officer Lee is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. With the kids having easy access to smart phones, there are a lot of Internet-related issues that are much more prevalent now.
“A big thing I like to talk about is being safe when you’re on the Internet,” she said. “There are a lot of issues with Internet safety.”
In addition, Officer Lee has SWAT training, she is a hostage negotiator and she is a field-training officer.
“I’m very down to earth, approachable and easy to talk to. I think that’s why I’m a good fit with being in the school,” Officer Lee said. “I’m still going to enforce the laws when I need to, but I’m still going to talk to the kids and be reasonable. I am an officer, but I’m also a person.”