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Schools add resource
Deputies keep pace, peace on campus
South Forsyth High School student Drew Schmidt chats with school resource officer Steve Honn Wednesday between classes. Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has expanded it SRO unit from seven to 14 deputies. - photo by Jim Dean
Steve Honn’s eyes darted across the halls of South Forsyth High School on a recent morning while he chatted with a teacher about a class assignment.Students shuffled between class periods, laughing with each other and waving at friends.Most didn’t even glance twice at the tall man with a badge and a gun secured in its holster, though a few said “hello.”South Forsyth has become accustomed to the presence of a Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy, since a school resource officer has patrolled the campus for about 15 years, when the partnership program began.Two weeks ago, however, the unit expanded from seven to 14, which allows for one officer at each high school and middle school, with roaming patrols at neighboring elementary schools.Each half of the county also has a sergeant overseeing the deputies and schools in that area, for a unit total of 16 people.The increased school presence was announced within Sheriff Duane Piper’s first two weeks in office, which began in January.Sgt. Eric Silveus said the deputies promote a safe environment, enforce laws and provide a link to the sheriff’s office for students, parents and faculty.“Our kids shouldn’t be afraid to come to school,” Silveus said. “We want them to feel safe.”South Forsyth senior Drew Schmidt said having a resource officer at his school reinforces the feeling that campus is a safe place.During his class period working in the front office, Schmidt sees Honn as a helpful source, greeting people and talking to students.A school resource officer does more than protect and patrol.Silveus said each officer acts in several different sheriff’s office capacities within a school, which with about 3,000 people can feel “like its own little town.”The deputy also creates a connection and comfort with law enforcement for students, he said.“It helps us bridge the gap,” Silveus said. “A lot of times within the community, there are walls built up between kids nowadays and police officers.”Deputy Adam Campbell, one of the recently added school resource officers, likes to eat with students in the Lakeside Middle cafeteria to establish that relationship.“But it’s hard to eat because I get so many questions from the kids,” Campbell said.