Corydon, IN - (WAVE) – When it comes to protecting your children in the classroom, school resource officers (SROs) are often the first line of defense.
That's something the South Harrison Community School District knows all too well after five of its students were arrested last week for planning a school shooting on social media.
The district and others like it have school resource officers in the classrooms, designed to work with students and help protect them, if it comes down to that.
Corydon Police Officer Mark Bye works in three Corydon schools as a school resource officer. He said building relationships is the key to serving these students, and protecting them.
For nearly five years, it's not the streets, but Corydon school hallways that Officer Mark Bye patrols.
"When I started my career as a law enforcement officer, I never dreamed I'd be in an elementary school opening juice boxes," Bye said.
But after close to 20 years as an officer, he said serving as a school resource officer was an immediate fit. Having him in the hallways is something students don't think twice about - most have seen him talking with their classmates and getting to know the students over the years.
"It would be weird if we didn't see him walking around," Corydon Central Senior Lydia Elliott said, her classmates Amber Whittington and Alexis Lawyer nodding in agreement.
Bye doesn't see the talks as hallway chatter, but building relationships with students.
"And if you get in there and get involved with that, those kids will come to you with things," Bye said.
Over the years, he's helped connect kids to whatever help they need. If they need clothes, he can help find them. If students need food or shelter, he helps with that, too.
Students, Bye said, and even their parents turn to him for help, counseling and questions. When things go badly for one of his students, he said there's a different response needed than if he was just patrolling the streets.
"You pick them up, you place them in handcuffs, take them in juvenile detention, do your paperwork and that's it. But here in the school, you're going to see them tomorrow," Bye said.
He said continuing the relationship with students even after something happens is a very important step, he said the kids need to know you'll be there for them while helping to correct the behavior that got them into trouble.
That trust and quick response was needed February 20 when students came to him to report a Snapchat conversation.
"We had two students that were brave enough and felt comfortable enough to come to myself and the principal Keith Marshall and talk to us about that about something they had just overseen," Bye said.
That social media conversation, court documents show, was where students were discussing detailed plans to shoot and possibly bomb Corydon Central. Court documents show one person in the Snapchat conversation was discussing targeting the African American students in the planned shooting first.
That trust between students and Officer Bye quickly led to the arrests of five Corydon Central students - four juveniles and Dylan Edwards.
"It's very disheartening to me. It almost makes me sit there and say, did I fail in some way," Bye said.
Students don't see it that way.
"For sure proven that they're there to keep us safe," said Corydon Central High School senior Amber Whittington.
Bye said for all his students who get into trouble, including the students involved in the shooting threat, it's important to forgive and help correct the path they're on, one step and conversation at a time.
"No matter what they do, I will stand there and talk to them the very next day. Because that's what I feel like you should do to continue that relationship," Bye said.
Community leaders and students will be coming together at Corydon Central and at South Central High School for a forum on safety in the schools in hopes of making South Harrison Schools a safer place.
WAVE 3 News Director Bill Shory will be there to speak about how school threats and shootings are covered in the media.
Students are encouraged to take an active role in how to improve safety and the culture in the classrooms.