Beyond the Badge: Meet the SRO at Adams High that doubles as a sports coach
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- School resource officers have been a big topic of discussion in recent years; some say it’s not necessary, but others argue SROs do much more than keep kids safe. They’re adults in uniform kids can trust and rely on when students are having a bad day.
This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re introducing Michiana to the SRO at Adams High School, making a lasting impact on South Bend students.
When SRO Antwon Jones isn’t walking the hallways at Adams, he’s a head coach for both football and the Unified Track team. He knows the in’s and out’s of the building and how to keep kids safe, but more than that, he’s a friendly face and someone kids can trust.
Officer Jones has been the SRO at Adams High for eight years.
“A typical day for me as an SRO is you come in and you help out with everyday dealings,” Jones said. “With our students and faculty and parents. Every once in a while, we'll have to maybe do something more on the law enforcement side of things. But overall, we're here to bridge the gap for our students and what they feel and what they think police officers are, and to show them a different side of law enforcement that when it's not all, what you see on social media, in TV and videos, that we're human and that we do care.”
While Officer Jones walks the hallways, South Bend Police Department Officer Diggins helps out in the lunch room each day and there’s six to eight other security officers there to keep students safe.
“The biggest thing that I've noticed with Officer Jones is the way that he is able to build those positive relationships with students,” Principal James Seitz said. “So that way, problems that may become problems in the future, don't, because he's able to be proactive. Students are comfortable coming to him if they have a disagreement with someone or if they have issues maybe at home.”
“I think one of the biggest missed misunderstandings of what an SRO is people think that we're here to arrest kids and give tickets, and to be a pipeline to prison,” Jones said. “That couldn't be further from the truth. We don't… that's the last thing we want to do. That's a last resort to have to detain one of our students. We don't want to do that. And we do a great job of finding ways where we don't have to interact that way with our students when they are being redirected.”
“Anyone who feels that his presence is a negative…they just, I don't think they understand really, the children of today and what they kind of need,” security officer Kenneth Butler said. “It's not a hard-disciplinary issue of presence. It's community related. It's encouraging kids. It's getting kids to understand. Police officers are not something to be feared.”
“Kids are coming up to him. He's coming up to students,” Seitz said. “And so, what I think it really does is it helps students bridge that gap between police and themselves. Unfortunately, for some of our students, the only interaction that they get to have with police is a negative interaction. And so, with Officer Jones being here in the building, their interaction here gets to be a positive one.”
“Obviously we can't prevent everything but I do know that we do,” Jones said. “Our presence does prevent things. It's just one of those things that you don't know what we prevented.”
Last month, a student was accused of robbing and stabbing another student. Officer Jones tells me it’s rare that they see heightened incidents like that at Adams, but when they do they already have people in the building to help with safety.
“They are already here,” Seitz said. “And they know the layout of the building by him being here. He knows the relationships of with students. And so, the biggest thing that I would say is that there's so much more that goes into his job, his role.”
“Him being here and having good rapport with the students is a lot of times he’s able to defuse a problem before it even begins,” Butler said.
Officer Jones said the community at John Adams is outstanding and he’s enjoyed the past eight years as SRO.
“We have great support staff,” he said. “We have great teachers. We have great administrators. And more importantly, we have great students. And I love it. I coach here, football coach, and I'm also the Unified Track co-head coach with Miss Redman.”
Officer Jones has been coaching in the area for a long time. When school ends, it’s off to football or Unified Track practice.
“A Unified Track, essentially is a track team, where we have kids with cognitive disabilities, and we have kids without cognitive disabilities, and we put them together on the same team,” Jones said. “So, it's one of those deals where they're not just last second play of a game. They are the star athletes from start to finish. And those kids compete together. They're a team.”
“Last year in our first year, we were able to make a state where we finished fourth,” he said.
Officer Jones said it’s rewarding to watch the students grow and get to be a part of their lives.
“Anytime you see, one of these young kids come in here and they're, they're goofy and they're running around the hallways a little immature and just see them grow through the years and the pride they have when they put on that cap and gown and they're walking across the stage and the pride their family has…just the sense of accomplishment, and just seeing that young person grow into an adult. It's just awesome. And it's so rewarding. It's one of those things that it's more of an intrinsic reward, where it's just, you just feel good about.”
“We’re more than just police officers in this building,” Jones said. “A lot of these kids know if we’re not here, or if we’re having a sick day or if there’s something going on. We’re parents too. We’re invested in this community and in this school district.”