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SRO training focuses on building relationships with students

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) -- Officers have officially begun a two-week course in order to be certified as School Resource Officers.

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA) trains Class I officers to be certified for duty in the state's schools.

The officers are trained on a wide array of topics including interpersonal skills, dealing with special needs students and deescalating situations.

Instructor Devon Hughes says the training goes beyond the badge and focuses on how to build relationships with the children.

"They need to want to be there and work with the kids," said Hughes. "If you're not out there watching your school and speaking to these kids, then you're not going to know what's happening on a daily basis and that's the way to solve problems that are going on in your school before they start."

The course has a basic curriculum, but Hughes says they also meet with current and previous SROs to discuss relevant topics contemporary to schools and students currently.

"For example, social media is always changing," said Hughes. "What kinds of trends are they seeing? What kind of other issues are they seeing? Are they seeing a lot of fights in their school? A lot of conflict? And how are they working through that conflict?"

With the rise of social media threats and school shootings, Hughes says the officers discuss their experiences and what they feel works...and doesn't work.

"I'm constantly learning from them, too," she said.

But authorities want to emphasize that, while the officers are taught to wear many hats, their primary focus is to uphold the law.

"So, don't misuse this officer," said Jackie Swindler, Director of the SCCJA. "Sometimes they want them to fill in class and be substitute; if they're locked down in class, they can't go out and do their other things and patrol. So schools need to understand to utilize this person as intended and they'll be that much more successful."

The officers must pass a course test at the summation of the training to receive the certification. This training ends April 6th.

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