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Officer a resource for students

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Senior Patrol Officer Ron VanDoorne, left, speaks with Dickinson High School students Alex Schroeder, left center, Garrett Kubischta, center, Brittany Meduna, right center and Christina Lantz, right, at DHS on Wednesday.1 / 2
Press Photo by Ashley Martin Trooper Megan Christopher from the North Dakota Highway Patrol shows 13-year-old Shea Stolp what a sobriety test is like at Hagen Junior High on Thursday. The demonstration was part of the "Be Amazed" program which taught Hagen students what could happen if they get into trouble.2 / 2

Students looking for help or with tips of trouble, often go to senior Patrol Officer Ron VanDoorne. If they don't feel comfortable with that, they sometimes slide notes under his office door.

The Dickinson High School and Hagen Junior High resource officer has worked at the schools for two years and has achieved the goals of education, prevention and intervention.

"My expectations have been exceeded," said Ron Dockter, DHS principal.

He said he hoped VanDoorne would help keep students from dropping out and getting into trouble. He also wanted VanDoorne to create a partnership with other agencies such as juveniles services and social services. Dockter said he has accomplished those goals.

"I did not think it would happen as quickly as it did. It's not unusual for students just to stop in to visit with Ron ... and they actually will come and share some things with him, they'll ask for some help or where to go -- he's a good resource person," Dockter said.

VanDoorne added it's common for him to find notes slipped under his office door from students either looking for help or leaving an anonymous tip about activities at and outside of school.

Paul Stremick, Dickinson Public Schools superintendent, said the district budgets $25,000 for the resource officer program. Stremick said the police department matches that $25,000 and the money goes to VanDoorne's wages as well as other costs, such as training.

While some may think it would be awkward to have an officer roaming the halls, the kids seem quite comfortable with having VanDoorne around. Some students even say they like having him at their school.

Garrett Kubischta, a junior and Christina Lantz, a senior, agree they feel safe with VanDoorne at DHS.

"It's good to know that if something were to happen, he's here to take care of it," Lantz said. "He's here right away instead of having to wait for someone to come."

Brittany Meduna, a DHS senior said she thinks VanDoorne influences students to behave better.

Dockter said since the students are comfortable with VanDoorne, they may also feel more comfortable around all law enforcement than they would had VanDoorne not been around.

"I think it's changed some stereotypes," Dockter said.

Sharon Hansen, counselor at Hagen, said students seem to trust VanDoorne.

"I would say having a school resource officer is the single most effective thing we've done to improve the climate of the school for our kids," Hansen said.

She added while the school used to have several fights a year, the problem has virtually vanished.

"We haven't had a fight in this building since I've been here," VanDoorne said.

Before VanDoorne started full time, an officer would come in part time, and Hansen said there was often a different officer coming to the school each time a student got into trouble. Now VanDoorne is usually the only officer that responds to disciplinary issues.

"Just having that consistency is huge," Hansen said.

She added VanDoorne knows the students' background and whether or not they've been in trouble in the past. Hansen said this can be helpful in determining what sort of disciplinary actions to take.

VanDoorne added he has built relationships with students' parents as well.

"That's one thing that's worked better than I thought it was going to work," VanDoorne said. "The amount of parents that call me for advice with issues that they're having, not only in school but also at home, has really risen a lot."

VanDoorne has taken his role as the resource officer to the next level by helping with fund raisers at school. He also took part in an activity at Hagen Thursday called "Be Amazed." The activity gave students different scenarios showing what happens when they get into trouble.

The scenarios ranged from domestic violence to drinking and driving. Some ended well and the students "graduated," while some scenarios ended with the students "dying." Several area businesses and organizations participated in the event.