If you’re a Lake Fenton student or parent, you’ve seen him visiting schools, covering football games and helping coordinate active shooter training this summer.
Dep. Jason Thomas, 35, is the Lake Fenton Community Schools (LFCS) Student Resource Officer (SRO). This will be his first full year at Lake Fenton. He was hired in the spring of 2017.
Thomas has been a full-time deputy for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) for six years, and was a special deputy on the dive team since 2005.
Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said there are nine sheriff’s deputies in various schools.
Superintendent Julie Williams said the goal for the district’s SRO is to provide security and to assist in situations that may have legal implications. “More importantly, we want our SRO to build relationships with students, staff and community members,” she said.
“So far, things are going great,” Williams said. “Deputy Thomas is very knowledgeable and eager to assist in any way he can. He is passionate about school safety and is helping us refine our processes and protocols.”
Pickell said he chooses deputies with good people skills, that get along with kids and teachers and recognizes the overall goal of safety.
There is no specific guidebook for an SRO. GCSO policies are augmented where needed to fit the job. Working with developing young adults is different from adults, but similar skills to help diffuse certain situations, for example, can be needed.
Thomas said good communication skills, thinking outside the box, seeing different perspectives and being a mediator are all parts of typical police work, and parts of being an SRO.
“The biggest difference with the SRO position is that you’re the go-to between the school and law enforcement in general and the law enforcement and community.”
He feels strongly that law enforcement has an obligation to bridge the gap between the community and police.
On an average day, he’ll make stops at all the schools. He spends more of his time at the high school. His schedule follows the school day, and includes extracurricular events.
He was instrumental with active shooter training, and covered football games, prom, homecoming, parent-teacher conference, pep assemblies, graduation and senior night out.
He also analyzes school security, and works with school leaders to make improvements.
“I’ve had the opportunity to counsel some kids, basically have conversations with them, maybe they’re going through some issues,” he said. He’s shaken hands with them afterward, and heard that he’s been helpful. “That’s really rewarding.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not our goal to get students in trouble,” he said. “(It’s) to help the school to help the students to become successful adults, and help the students directly to become successful adults.”
He also talks to lower grade levels and answers questions about his job and about police.
“In the end it’s the schools and the parents that win,” Pickell said. “I’m just so pleased that our schools recognize the need for our program; they’ve been so supportive of us, it’s just a great relationship.”