They can’t write you a speeding ticket (yet), but thanks to a new partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and local elementary schools, campus Safety Patrols are now genuine Junior Deputies
Parents of elementary school students will immediately recognize the neon Safety Patrol sash worn proudly by many fifth graders across Seminole County. And now, if you look a little closer, you’ll notice the smiles on the kids’ faces are suddenly a little larger, their posture a little prouder.
This past December, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Seminole County Public Schools to formally recognize members of the iconic elementary Safety Patrol program, officially swearing them in as members of the community’s public safety personnel during a ceremony at Lyman High School.
Richard Francis, a captain with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, serves as the School Safety and Security Manager for SCPS and oversees all of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers (the deputies on duty at local schools, otherwise known as SROs). Captain Francis emceed the event, which included an official swearing-in ceremony of the Safety Patrol students, who each received a certificate of merit.
“As part of the ceremony, we recognized them for being part of the school Safety Patrol program, and the sheriff swore them in as Junior Deputies,” Captain Francis explains.
Nearly 700 fifth graders were honored at the event, which included students from 21 schools under the Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction, representing about 85 percent of Seminole County’s elementary schools. The sheriff, superintendent, chief deputy, and most School Board members were in attendance.
“The kids were super, super excited,” says Captain Francis. “I felt that, for these kids, serving on Safety Patrol is an extra duty, and it was important to recognize them formally. We wanted to wrap our arms around this group of kids, to take that extra step.”
This is the first year the Safety Patrol has been formally recognized and honored by the School Board, and it’s part of an initiative by the Sheriff’s Office to offer more direction, training, and mentorship to the Safety Patrol coordinators who manage the program at their respective schools.
“We’re collaborating with the SROs to establish a little more uniformity across the school district,” Captain Francis says, noting the goal is to provide formalized safety training and guidance. “The ceremony was actually a small part of our overall Safe School Initiative for the School Safety Division to become more involved in this school function.”
While the primary purpose of the Safety Patrol program is to enhance the safety of all students, it also promotes the development of leadership skills and good citizenship qualities.
“A Safety Patrol’s job is to model for students the safety rules that have been taught to assist students in safe transitions throughout the school,” says Captain Francis.
In addition, members of Safety Patrol must remain in good academic standing in all subject areas and model good behavioral choices.
Safety Patrol Elijah at Red Bug Elementary takes his job to heart.
“I enjoy Safety Patrol because I get to be a leader and show people the right things to do,” he says.
Safety Patrols Alyssa and Ava at Sabal Point Elementary agree wholeheartedly. “I like to be a Safety Patrol because you get to help people, and you get to show them things that they don’t really know,” says Alyssa.
“Like the first day of school, no one knew where their class was, and you get to help them with that,” Ava adds. “I can set a good example for people and show what you’re supposed to do.”
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This summer, for the first time, Safety Patrol members have an amazing opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., on an all-inclusive tour sponsored and chaperoned by the Sheriff’s Office. If the students successfully participate in the Safety Patrol program, they can opt to join the five-day trip for a reduced, manageable price. This is another initiative to bring the schools and law enforcement together in a positive environment.
“We’re doing things that I believe no other districts are doing,” says Captain Francis.
Next year, the swearing-in ceremony is shaping up to be even more exciting. There’s talk of having two ceremonies to kick off each semester as well as adding interactive, kid-friendly activities and even a snow-cone machine.
“We want to make it fun for the kids,” says Captain Francis, “We’re always trying to think outside the box, and the School Board members and the superintendent have been extremely supportive of our efforts in the schools.”