As a student, Roy Leap went to school in Switzerland County. As a high school student, he walked the halls of Switzerland County High School, graduating in 1984. He met his future wife there. His oldest daughter graduated from there; and his youngest daughter is a senior there.
As an adult, he has served the students as the coach of the girls varsity soccer team; and as of Monday, he has taken on yet another challenge in working with and helping students and staff.
Roy Leap is the first ever School Resource Officer assigned to the Switzerland County School Corporation.
With a wide range of issues facing students in schools all over the country, from bullying to substance abuse to domestic violence and others; many schools have brought a School Resource Officer into their corporations not only to handle issues that may break the law; but also work in a preventative and educational way, cutting off potential issues before they arise.
The hiring of a School Resource Officer here has been a three year process, as school officials have worked with law enforcement as well as members of the community to develop a vision of how the officer will interact not only in a high school setting, but also in all buildings within the corporation.
Roy Leap will be much more than a security officer. He will be much more than a deputy with a badge in the schools.
He will be a resource for students and staff to educate everyone about the dangers of situations before they occur; and will also development educational programs and work with conflict resolution as it arises.
Officially, he is a deputy with the Vevay Police Department, and carries all rights that any law enforcement officer has, even though he’s in the school. He will wear a uniform while on duty.
His first day on the new job with the students was Monday.
“I think I was the most excited person there,” Roy Leap said with a smile. “Everyone else was just coming back from Christmas break, and I had this big smile on my face.”
He sees his new duties as varied.
“The School Resource Officer is going to be a liaison between the police department and the school system to do safety planning and basically ensure the safety of the students and make sure they have a positive learning environment with no distractions,” he said. “We’ll be doing several things: school safety planning, some teaching, daily operations if they have anything that crosses over into the criminal side of things. Basically I’m going to be working close with each school, not just the high school.”
He will have an area at each school where he will be able to locate while there to do planning and meet with students and staff; and although he expects to be very visible in all of the schools, there won’t be a set schedule of where he will be and when he will be there – because that would be counter productive to the reason he’s on duty in the first place.”
“When dealing with trying to prevent situations and keep the kids safe, it is hampered if everyone knows that I’m going to be here on a certain day and there on another day,” Roy Leap said.
The teaching element of the job will involve topics such as bullying prevention; and he also sees a big role in helping educate students about social media and how to use it properly.
“Right now we’re setting up for this ‘digital citizenship’ right now, which will involve all students, and most of the students are going to be getting Chromebooks and stuff,” Roy Leap said. “We want to make sure that they understand and use good computer etiquette, and think before they post things on Facebook or other sites involving social media. We’ll teach drug awareness. I’ll probably be teaching all of the topics that they want to address that isn’t in the standard curriculum.”
Along with being in the schools, Roy Leap is also a police officer, which means his summer will consist of planning and preparing for programming for the next school year; as well as maintaining his qualifications just like any other law enforcement officer.
“I am a law enforcement officer, so I still have to keep up my training as an officer through the Vevay Police Department,” he said.
Having served as Sheriff of Switzerland County for the past four years, Roy Leap was already certified by the State as a School Resource Officer – which made his application much more appealing to both the Vevay Police Department and the School Corporation, because the new hire did not have to spend time away getting trained, the new officer could be on duty on day one.
The training touched on a wide range of issues.
“They touched on things like building perimeter safety concerns; areas that we need to look for in a building that we may need to change to make it safer for the school kids,” Roy Leap said. “We studied school law and policy. Active shooter training. It was a wide range of issues.”
As the focus of the School Resource Officer is on prevention, part of keeping all students and staff safe is being there if there is some sort of issue.
“I won’t just be teaching and educating the students about safety and keeping the school safe, but I’ll be doing staff training also,” he said. “We’ll be talking about things to look for, like drug awareness. Being able to spot and identified things like the new drugs and trends that are happening.”
As he transitions into this new job, Roy Leap feels like his involvement with the schools and with students is a big plus in getting the students to listen to him and to trust him in all situations.
“It was nice with the students,” he said. “With my prior coaching experience, it was nice. The kids who know me, I think they felt pretty safe and secure and were welcoming with me. I liked that. It was nice to get back. My focus point has always been on the kids, so it’s kind of nice to be in that environment.
“My job is not to have to arrest somebody,” Roy Leap continued. “If something has to be taken care of, then we’re going to take care of it. Conflict resolution is going to be a big part of my job. It’s much more than simply having a police officer in the school.”
When considering applicants for the position of School Resource Officer, Vevay Chief of Police James Richards felt like everything came together in the right way at the right time in bringing Roy Leap into the position.
Making the hire was the end of a long and thorough process of establishing the position and then finding the right person to staff it.
“This all started out when Itsy Jones was our superintendent,” James Richards said. “That was about four years ago, right as I took the chief’s position. I brought interest to Itsy about it. Rising Sun was starting to commit to it, as were other counties. I started checking into the grants and things like that and seeing how the School Resource Officer enveloped the schools. Everything I’ve read and seen has been positive, and I think our schools will really benefit from it.”
The position is being paid for through a federal grant, with no county tax revenue going to fund the position.
And being able to bring Roy Leap onboard?
“It all came together. I couldn’t believe how it all came together,” James Richards said. “It’s funny how all of this happened. We didn’t think it was going to happen for the longest time. The first two years were kind of up and down. The third year kind of went away; then when Mike Jones became superintendent, he really showed interest in it and brought it back to the table. Things happen for a reason. We waited four years, and I’m glad we did, because we wouldn’t have had anybody as qualified as this to take on the position, as well as Roy being a strong part of the community.”
James Richards said that during his second year of working on the project, Roy Leap became interested while he was serving as Switzerland County Sheriff, becoming involved in the development process as he saw the need for a School Resource Officer position.
For James Richards, he sees this as a first line of resolution before things progress to a point where laws are broken and arrests are made.
“This allows us to get to the stem of the problem before things escalate,” Chief Richards said. “We want to give our kids an environment where they feel safe in school and are not worrying about different issues. Roy will wear several hats: truancy, drug and substance abuse, ethics. Just the values. Some kids don’t get those at home, unfortunately. In the times we are living in today, there are many kids who come from what we would consider a ‘typical family’. His professionalism is going to rub off on them.”
- Pat Lanman