Josh West is a veteran officer with eight years of experience at the Vinton Police Department. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Officer West became the Vinton-Shellsburg district’s first school resource officer (SRO). Officer West’s position is supported by grant funds and a combination of resources from the school district and the police department.
For Josh, of his three roles as educator, mentor, and police officer, the main focus is on keeping students safe. “As with all policing, the focus is on keeping everyone safe; students, staff and visitors,” said Officer West, “but I’m also determined to make a change in the perception children have about law enforcement. I believe this is especially important for older students whom I hope my work helps keep away from serious difficulties with the law and in life. I was eager to apply for this position because the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District was a significantly positive influence on me growing up, and this is an opportunity to give something back.”
“Officer West has been a key addition to our district’s safety plan,” explains Ryan Davis, principal at Shellsburg Elementary and VSCSD’s lead administrator for safety. “This year we are reviewing our safety procedures, and his expertise and insight have been invaluable. He has also been instrumental in training our staff on emergency procedures. Perhaps the biggest benefit to school safety, though, are all the possible incidents that are prevented before they happen because he is present and building relationships with students.”
There are other elements of district safety beyond the resource officer. Visitors at all of the school buildings are required to use only the public entrances where they are admitted by school staff. Visitors must have a purpose to be in the building and wear a visitor’s badge. All staff members have identity badges with pictures, and all have received ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) training.
Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) are another aspect of school safety at the Middle School. With PBIS, teachers share clear behavioral expectations with students and positive feedback for meeting them.
“When I was studying PBIS a line that stuck out to me said that if a kid can’t swim, we teach them. If a kid can’t ride a bike, we teach them, but if a kid makes a bad decision, we punish them. With PBIS we are trying to teach them the correct response by providing positive intervention when they demonstrate good behaviors,” said Officer West.
Officer West spends time at all of the schools in the district but spends the most time at the middle school and high school. “From roughly 8 am to 4 pm, Monday thru Friday, I’m at one of the buildings in the district. My goal this year is to make it to more school events. I think it’s important for the community to see me out of uniform; to see me not just as an officer, but also as a husband and dad.
“Vinton-Shellsburg is a very safe environment. I feel like kids can come to any faculty member and tell them how they’re feeling or about some issue that is going on, and most kids know that too,” said Officer West. “The staff listens, and they care and want what’s best for the students, and I see that daily.”