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Resourceful officer
Professionals keep watchful eye on campuses
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Sheriff’s Deputy Terri Wright, a school resource officer, watches over students passing between buildings Monday during class change at Forsyth Central High School. - photo by Jim Dean
The back-to-school bell rang earlier this month, not just for teachers and students, but for a select group of authorities as well.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Deputy Terri Wright is one of 10 school resource officers that patrol each of the local school district’s 34 campuses.

“I’m out in the halls, I’m just everywhere on this campus all the time,” Wright said earlier this week as she made the rounds at Forsyth Central High School.

Wright is assigned to Central, where she spends the majority of her time, as well as Otwell Middle and Cumming Elementary schools.

Along with chatting up students in the hallways, she also goes into classrooms and gives presentations on various subjects including bullying, driver’s license requirements and Campus CrimeStoppers.

The CrimeStoppers program allows students, parents, teachers and residents to send anonymous text messages to the sheriff’s office with tips on criminal activity. It also accepts phone calls and e-mails.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to be a teacher or a cop,” said Wright, who has been a school resource officer for two-and-a-half years. “This is my way of being both because we can go into the classes and teach.”

Wright stopped by a physical education class at Central and advised the students against bringing expensive items to school and leaving valuables outside their lockers.

She also warned them about the school’s policy against bullying.

“We are not going to stand for name calling ... it’s not going to be tolerated,” she told the group. “No throwing things at other kids ... First time it happens, you’re going to be in the office with me and the principal.”

Wright said her job isn’t all about discipline and punishment. She said she makes herself available to students to talk about any issues they may have at home or with other students.

With younger students, Wright covers up her nametag and has them guess her identity. If they get her name right, they get a junior deputy sticker.

She said a student called her one morning last week to tell her he heard a rumor that another student wanted to commit suicide.

“We had it handled before school started that day,” she said.

Wright’s supervisors, Lt. Jody Chapman and Sgt. Eric Silveus, explained that the school resource officers are part of a relationship between the school district and sheriff’s office.

Silveus said they are encouraged to get to know the student body and parents.

“We want the kids to feel comfortable enough to approach a deputy, school official or firefighter if they have an issue,” Silveus said. “We don’t want the kids to grow up having a fear of the police. We’re there to help them if they need it.”

When school is out, the resource officers supplement the sheriff’s special operations division, which includes marine patrol and a newly formed bicycle unit.

Chapman explained that the bike unit was started in anticipation of the opening of the Big Creek Greenway. The greenway is a multi-use trail, being built in several phases, that will eventually stretch from south Forsyth to Sawnee Mountain.

“Any time school is out, they’re doing bike patrol, park patrol,” Chapman said.

Bruce Wagar, the school system’s director of safety and discipline, said the activities of the school resource officer program are coordinated through his office, which allows officials to know what’s going on on each campus.

“I think it’s an incredible commitment on the part of the sheriff to provide the school system with the caliber of resource officer we have,” Wagar said.

He said school resource officers were involved last year in 178 incidents districtwide that led to disciplinary tribunals, which are conducted to handle more serious offenses.