In the hour Montville Patch spent with School Resource Officer Karen Moorehead at Montville High School, dozens of students either shouted in the door their hellos and ‘what’s ups,’ or stopped by for a quick chat, or some food (“I have peanuts,” she told them), and a couple came to unload, vent and one, weep.
“I totally love this job. I absolutely love it,” and as she was about to share a story, her phone buzzed. A situation was brewing: a kid who she said last year she had to “pull a Taser on” because of a violent outburst but who is “doing amazing so far this year” was at home refusing to go to school and his parent had called police to help her. She told the other officer on the line to keep her posted.
“Love you, Moorehead,” a girl shouts from the hallway. She decided to stop and tell the police officer about a fellow student that said something inappropriate to her; she was in tears. Moorehead comforted her and said she’d speak to the student.
A minute later, another student stops and peeks in: “Hey Moorehead. I have something for you. I’ll come by later.”
And a steady stream of kids, changing classes so the halls were full, made quick pit stops. Some kids who may have no issues troubling them, or problems at home, but many do.
“Yeah, I do spend my day putting out fires,” she says as she opens a drawer with a file devoted to letters and notes from kids. And the walls of her office are filled with quotations that kids write using colorful Sharpie markers.
“Last year Facebook issues were big but it’s always things like boyfriend and girlfriend problems, but also some ugly stuff like threats via text,” Moorhead says.
She’s been the SRO for two years and was previously the DARE officer and worked with kids in Kindergarten through 7th grade.
“A lot of kids have major (problems) at home and that affects what happens in school. My job is to help them, to be there for them.”
But she’s still a cop.
Her phone rings again. The parent of the boy refusing to come to school has just called police and screaming could be heard in the background.
“Let’s go,” she says and in seconds we’re out the door on the way to the police cruiser parked outside.
Moorehead meets other police officers at the home and within about 10 minutes, she has the boy outside with his backpack and, albeit begrudgingly, has agreed to come to school. Moorehead tries to get to the bottom of the reason he put up such a fight. He is “in a beef” with another boy, something he’s trying to avoid but not at the expense of looking weak. She handles him well and by the time we’re back at the school, he’s calm and willing to try and avoid problems, especially at school.
“You’re having an amazing year. I’d hate to see that go down the drain,” she tells him.
He responds with an “Uh-hum.” But somehow, one gets the impression he’s hearing her.
“My best days and my worst days are probably the same. I mean if a kid that doesn’t know me comes in and tells me something horrific, tragic and I end up helping, we’ll that’s good because I got through.”
The phone rings and she takes the call but at the same time saying hey to kids passing by. One says hey back but she stops him.
“What’s that in your hand,” she asks.
“A (hall) pass,” the boy with multi-color hair and funky stars and stripes pants topped with a studded vest.
“Right, okay except the hall passes are blue.” She invites him in her office and they get to the bottom of it; he admits to fudging the time and date on the pass.
“Let’s keep working on this ‘no skipping classes thing,” she says.
“Yeah, I guess we should.”