Dover High resource officer addresses behavior from front line

By Benjamin Rothstein
Posted 4/18/24

Cpl. Demetrius Stevenson says his 12th year as Dover High School’s school resource officer has been the most trying of his career.

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Dover High resource officer addresses behavior from front line


DOVER — Cpl. Demetrius Stevenson says his 12th year as Dover High School’s school resource officer has been the most trying of his career.

While Capital School District administrators have been working to address the multitude of behavioral issues plaguing its facilities, Cpl. Stevenson can be found in the hallways of Dover High, interacting with students every school day.

These officers are full-fledged policemen and -women stationed in educational buildings to help with safety and security. But they can also find themselves as counselors or teachers of sorts — role models for the children.

Cpl. Stevenson, part of the Dover Police Department, said students’ negativity is at a high level right now.

While he couldn’t disclose specific incidents, he noted, “That’s one thing that I’m seeing this year, (is) that kids are just very volatile or just very, very angry. And why that is, I don’t know. A lot of it stems from stuff that happens out in the community or happens when they’re at home.”

One of the methods now being employed by the district to address behavior is a change in the way students are disciplined. Cpl. Stevenson described it as taking the restorative piece and putting it in front of the disciplinary piece — a practice that may not be garnering the results administrators are seeking.

“Post-COVID, (with) students or kids, the consensus is that they’re going to be dealt with soft hands. And I think they understand that. They’re OK with the discipline that they’ll receive because it’s not that tough of a discipline,” he said.

He added that pandemic shutdowns put educators in a difficult position: They want to give students leeway because it is impossible to know what their home lives are like. Plus, a spike of behavioral issues tends to occur at the beginning of each academic year, when family issues that sprouted over the summer bleed into school hours.

“We don’t know what’s going on because we’re not with them every day as we are (while they’re) in school, where we can gauge them a little bit better and kind of read them, engage them and see what’s going on,” said Cpl. Stevenson.

In addition, he agrees with administrators that the effects of pandemic-era online learning are still very much being witnessed in schools across the country.

When it comes to conflict resolution, it’s been particularly challenging, Cpl. Stevenson said, adding that some kids almost seem as if they crave physical altercations with their peers There have always been fights, but now, they are being seen more often, he said. Plus, the popularity of fight videos on social media are potential encouragement.

Ultimately, Cpl. Stevenson said, the problem is a disconnect between the Capital district and the community.

“Right now, what’s happening is a lot of finger-pointing. The community doesn’t trust the powers that be there in the Capital School District. The Capital School District has to put some plans in place to gain that trust from the community,” he said.

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