School en­vi­ron­ment chang­ing dra­mat­i­cally

‘We’re see­ing a lot of chil­dren go into cri­sis’

North Bay Nugget - - FRONT PAGE - Jen­nifer Hamil­ton-mc­cha­rles

There’s a lot more go­ing on in­side schools than learn­ing lan­guage and math­e­mat­ics.

Stu­dents strug­gling with stress, men­tal health is­sues, drugs, bul­ly­ing and sex­u­al­ity is­sues have led to hun­dreds of calls for po­lice as­sis­tance.

North Bay po­lice of­fi­cer Eric Krm­potic, the ser­vice’s school li­ai­son of­fi­cer, sees first­hand the is­sues be­ing grap­pled with by stu­dents and ed­u­ca­tors.

Ev­ery school prin­ci­pal and vice-prin­ci­pal has his cell­phone num­ber and he’s known in school hall­ways.

“I re­cently at­tended an ele­men­tary school where a seven-year-old com­pletely de­stroyed the school li­brary,” Krm­potic says. “We’re see­ing a lot of chil­dren go into cri­sis at school.”

The num­ber and se­ri­ous­ness of the calls are both in­creas­ing.

In 2018, two school li­ai­son of­fi­cers an­swered 599 calls for as­sis­tance, rang­ing from a crim­i­nal oc­cur­rence to a health issue.

Call vol­umes dou­ble in De­cem­ber, May and June, Krm­potic says.

“Adults aren’t the only ones who stress about Christ­mas.”

Po­lice re­sponded to 414 calls in 2017 and 252 in 2016.

This year, the North Bay Po­lice Ser­vice re­duced its school li­ai­son of­fi­cers to one from two.

Po­lice spokesman John Schultz says the of­fi­cer has been re­de­ployed for a short time to ac­com­mo­date front-line ser­vices.

With three new of­fi­cers just hav­ing started, Schultz says there is a time­frame for train­ing un­til they can go out on their own.

Schultz says the of­fi­cer will re­turn to the schools in the near fu­ture.

Krm­potic’s job and du­ties were high­lighted Wed­nes­day dur­ing the first of six Civil­ian Po­lice Academy ses­sions held at North Bay po­lice head­quar­ters.

In­ter­ested res­i­dents were asked to ap­ply to at­tend the ses­sions to learn more about polic­ing. Each ses­sion in­cludes three to five speak­ers.

Krm­potic says the school en­vi­ron­ment has changed dras­ti­cally.

So­cial me­dia has be­come a haven for bul­ly­ing and an op­por­tu­nity for teens to ex­plore their sex­u­al­ity by post­ing or send­ing nude pic­tures.

“It’s also easy to en­gage in bul­ly­ing and in­volve stu­dents from dif­fer­ent schools.”

Drugs, such as co­caine, meth and mar­i­juana, are of­ten con­fis­cated, and then there’s talk­ing to teens about the dan­gers of pill par­ties.

“There’s vi­o­lence, as­saults, threats of vi­o­lence and ha­rass­ment, too,” Krm­potic adds.

School lock­downs and code reds are be­com­ing more com­mon­place.

“We’re ready with the equip­ment and the train­ing. How­ever, I tell stu­dents dur­ing code red or lock­down prac­tice drills to treat them like it’s re­ally hap­pen­ing. If I can hear you talk­ing, so will the bad guy. Noise can equate to death, he or she doesn’t need to know where you are.”

Krm­potic praises the school staff and the po­lice de­part­ment for help­ing to make schools a safe place for stu­dents to re­port crim­i­nal of­fences.

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