INDIANAPOLIS – Inside Winchester Village Elementary, there are special guests stopping by for lunch.

This week, it’s assistant police chief for Perry Township Schools, Anthony McGavock, and his team of officers.

“It’s the most proactive part of law enforcement is to be able to talk to the kids and get to know them, get to know us – before they need us,” said Asst. Chief McGavock.

It’s an opportunity for these officers to meet and talk with the students in a casual setting. However, it’s more than just fun.

These moments have proven to make a difference out on the streets.

“A lot of times IMPD, they’ll get a domestic violence run or something and they’ll call for a school officer and we’ll arrive on scene and comfort the kids because most of them are familiar with us. You can see the relief in their faces when we walk in,” said McGavock.

Perry Township Schools have noticed this connection has made some students more confident.

Blair Schneider is the principal at Winchester Village Elementary. He said, “It gives a safe person that our kids can feel safe to tell if something is happening. If they’re having problems if that’s at home or at school, they feel confident and safe to share that.” 

McGavock shared a story that he says represents why this is important.

“We’ll go in and read books to the students and I walked into the building and this little third grader came up to me and he had this panic look on his face,” McGavock explained.

“He asked his teacher, ‘Why is he here?’ The teacher came to me, and she said, ‘Can you explain to him why you’re in the building?’ I said, ‘Well, I could.’ There was another classroom walking by at the time, so I picked a random student out in the hallway, and I said, ‘Hey come here.’ She recognized me. I said, ‘Can you tell him why I am here?’ She looked at the student with the biggest smile on her face and said, ‘He likes to see our smiling faces.'”

There are several school districts in Indiana hoping the same for their students.

In Wayne Township, there’s a program that connects police with students to challenge them to become role models.

The district said in a statement:

The MSD Wayne Township School Police SRO (School Resource Officer) Challenge Coin program is intended to connect school police officers with Wayne Township students in a positive light.  Building administrators, School Resource Officers, staff and others are empowered to identify and recognize those students best exhibiting the Wayne Habits of Success.  The SRO Challenge Coin consists of a two-sided coin; the front side contains an image of the badge worn by officers of the MSD Wayne Township School Police Department and the back contains the image of the seal of the MSD Wayne Township.”

In Carmel Clay Schools, the student resource officers are also teacher/guest instructors, mentors, and law enforcement.  A district representative said, “Mentoring and teaching is how the best relationships are built and last a lifetime.”

Here’s a list of the responsibilities for Carmel school officers:

  • Eat lunch with students
  • Greet students as they arrive and leave school
  • Read to classes
  • Participate in gym class and on the playground during recess
  • Teach age/grade appropriate classroom programs
  • Dress up during spirit week or special events
  • Participate and/or work after school events and PTO functions
  • Connect with school communities on social media
  • Create and share video content
  • Some SROs have spent off-duty time going to watch a student play a sport or perform

McGavock added, “They know they can approach us when they need us, they can hang out with us, they can just come and talk to us – we’re people. We’re there for them, these are our people.”

A lunch time chat that’s making a lasting impression on not only the kids but the officers.

The officers also visit the middle and high schoolers.

Meanwhile, throughout Central Indiana over the last year, there has been discussions about the role of police in schools. Some parents had concerns.

Officer McGavock believes lunch programs like this one and having police in schools can make a positive difference.