Henry County Schools get resource officers, thanks to federal grant

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

ABBEVILLE, AL (WSFA) - It's been a tough year so far for Henry County Schools, thanks to a shrinking budget.

But, a new federal grant is helping the system actually add personnel to its roster.

This week, students at Abbeville and Headland High Schools noticed a new face around campus.

Abbeville High Senior Darius Brown said, "On Monday, he was standing with the principal, and I didn't know what to think."

Those new faces are school resource officers, Noel Vanlandingham, at Abbeville High and Rickey Allen, at Headland High.

The officers started this week, thanks to a $30-thousand dollar federal grant.

Henry County School Superintendent Dennis Coe said, "The grant will be used for the officers' salaries, travel, and uniforms, and will also cover the cost of textbooks for the drug awareness classes they teach."

But, that money won't cover everything.  The cities of Abbeville and Headland are picking up the rest.

School leaders say, it's a good investment.

Coe said, "We take pride in our schools, and we can't do all it alone."

Students at the schools say, at first, they didn't know what to think, seeing an officer in uniform hanging around their campus.  But, after getting used to it, students like the idea.

Abbeville Student Haydyn Colp said, "We feel a lot safer with the officer here."

Officers say, while their goal is to make the schools a safer place, they also hope to build relationships with the students and serve as a positive example.

Lt. Vanlandingham said, "I want to be a role model, and I want to show the kids that they can act right and they can do the right thing.  And if they have a problem, they can come to the school resource officer, if they don't feel comfortable going to anybody else."

School leaders say that relationship will go a long way in preventing violence and drug activity.

Coe said, "There's a lot of problems that occur on the streets that sometimes kids want to bring back to school, and hopefully that will be an extra deterrent."

This is also the first year the school system has implemented voluntary and random drug testing for students, which will be coupled with drug awareness classes the new officers will teach.

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