“With the way the world’s going, parents need to know we’re here for them and we’re here for their kids,” Graves County school resource officer John Cavin said recently. “We are determined to protect our students and other people in our schools to the best of our abilities.” SRO Jonathan Grant, his colleague, added, “As parents ourselves, we understand that our most valuable assets are our children. We both are willing to put their safety before our own.”
Grant generally is stationed at the high school and Cavin at the middle school, “We go to whichever school needs us at the time,” Cavin explained. “I’m happy the school district employs two police officers and we have two police cars. There are 336 school district police officers in Kentucky; many are employed by agencies outside those school districts. The Graves County School District is one of the few of Kentucky’s 173 districts to have its own police department.”
Superintendent Kim Dublin said, “I think it speaks well of the Graves County Board of Education that its members created and support our district having its own police department. It provides us the best opportunity to collaborate throughout our district with fellow employees to address school safety directly and efficiently.”
Cavin is in his 12th year with the district, following 11 years as a policeman in southern California. He and his wife moved here for a more traditional way of life. They have two daughters, both of whom attend Graves County Schools.
Grant is in his third year, after retiring from more than 20 years with the Kentucky State Police. Obtaining the Post 1 job brought him and his wife, Michelle, to Graves County from another part of the commonwealth.
“I am vested in the Graves County Schools,” Grant said. “I’ve lived here now for 24 years. My wife is a teacher at Wingo Elementary. We have three sons. My oldest has graduated. One is graduating this year. My youngest will be a freshman next year.
“I think the kids and people in general here respect the police and understand the need,” Grant continued. “What police do is to maintain good order in our communities. In our schools, we want it to be a safe place for both our kids and employees to come each day, along with any visitors.”
“I typically take care of the high school and LEAD Academy and, because of proximity, I often go to Central Elementary,” he continued. “Officer Cavin is at the middle school most of the time, but we transition and cover for one another, when needed.”
“I usually take care of the elementary schools,” Cavin added. “If I am needed at one elementary school and something comes up at another one, I will call Officer Grant to go to that school.”
Also connecting Cavin to the seven elementary schools is teaching sixth graders Drug Abuse Resistance Education. “I’m now in my sixth year of doing DARE. The program itself in Graves County is really showing results with far fewer incidents of students using alcohol and tobacco. It’s very rewarding to see that providing these kids with the facts on these substances is making an impact.”
Cavin noted, “DARE shows kids that police are not the bad guys, as we often are portrayed in the media. Those kids bring out another side of me, a fun side, but there’s also a fatherly aspect. They know I care about them. The SRO program in general has gotten kids to tell us things they otherwise would not. The rapport DARE and the SRO programs build speak volumes. Interaction with these students and schools through DARE increases the familiarity between the elementary school offices and me. Therefore, if something is happening at an elementary school, they usually will call me. I see our increased interaction and familiarity as building relationships and that helps when they need me to visit their schools.”
“Our best line of defense is building rapport and relationships with all the students,” Grant said. “If they know you’re genuine, they’ll come over and talk to you. That’s not only when a problem is about to happen, but when someone’s done something nice, too.”
Grant also enjoys his instructional opportunities. “I teach a four-hour driver safety class,” he noted. “Driving is the most dangerous task any of us will do and can be the most deadly. That course is necessary for a young driver to keep their driver’s license, mandated by law. I also am certified to teach Alive at 25, a 4 1/2 –hour defensive driving course for young drivers. I teach it at nine high schools in western Kentucky.”
The Graves County Schools Department of Public Safety is a bone fide law enforcement agency in Kentucky with the same annual requirement of 40 hours annual training for its officers and same authority as other law enforcement agencies. Both Jonathan Grant (left) and John Cavin are sworn police officers through the commonwealth of Kentucky, police academy-trained, and district-wide employees. They believe their interaction with students builds relationships that help maintain order and safety. Graves County is one of the relatively few school districts in Kentucky to create and maintain its own in-district police department.
(photo by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools)