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SRO: Relationships key

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of Unicoi County’s school resource officers.

Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Daniel Honeycutt attended high school in Unicoi County before the current school was built – and before there was a school resource officer presence.
Recent national events involving schools, he said, have generated concerns, which led to his current SRO position at the high school.
“I think that times have changed, obviously,” he said. “We’ve all heard about school shootings and things like that. It’s good to have an officer presence in the school, and it is good for officers to have a relationship with the students.”
The most fulfilling aspect that Honeycutt has found as a school resource officer is earning students’ trust.
“There was one student that I would wave at and say ‘Hi’ every morning,” he said. “For a while he would not acknowledge me, but as time went on he finally began to say it back.” Honeycutt said moments like these are rewarding for him.
High school students are generally beginning to learn how to take responsibility for their actions, Honeycutt said. He said he wants students to take the time to speak with him about how to learn from any punishment or predicament that has occurred.
“I think a lot of the time we are looked at as bad guys,” Honeycutt said. “When a student gets into trouble, I want them to know that they can find me and talk to me about it. I think I’ve got a really good relationship built with the kids, especially at the high school.”
In a high school atmosphere, Unicoi County High School Principal Rebecca Love said from her perspective, Honeycutt’s relationship with the students is positive.
“The students feel comfortable coming up to him and questioning him or telling him something,” Love said. “There isn’t a standoffishness about it. They feel very comfortable. He takes his job very seriously.”
Honeycutt is needed in instances when students decide to skip school or a fight breaks out, Love said.
“Working with adolescents is different than some of the younger students,” Love said. “That is why an officer is good to have on site.”
Honeycutt said he likes to collectively spend an hour to 45 minutes in each school. His responsibilities include monitoring all schools in the vicinity of the high school, like the middle school, intermediate, preschool and CTE.
Love said Honeycutt works together with faculty during emergency drills to make sure students understand the proper procedures.
“When we do our fire drills, tornado drills, lock downs he always works with us,” she said. “He and I will go around and make sure the interior of the building is secured.”
Lunch time at the high school is also a main focus during his daily routine, Honeycutt said. “Lunch time is usually when students will try to leave the school to go eat lunch,” he said.
He explained that the students are the responsibility of the school which they attend. He said if a student decides to leave campus when they are not supposed to, he has no way to protect them. Honeycutt said he sees his job as not only protecting the students, but faculty and staff as well.
Another advantage, Honeycutt said he finds rewarding in his position, is there are more opportunities to get involved in the community by monitoring after-school activities.
He said his level of community interaction increased when he made the switch from patrol to SRO last year. He said he enjoys building relationships with everyone involved in education from students to faculty.
“I am interacting with more people,” he said. “It is constant from when I get here until when I leave.”
Another important part of Honeycutt’s job is to direct traffic, Love said.
“In the afternoon, our students dismiss at the same time as our buses leave,” she said. “He lets the buses go in and out and the students wait, which is always good.” Love said Honeycutt also handles the parking permits provided to students who drive to school.
“He can also inform the students about requirements for the driver’s license,” Love said. “In emergency situations, he can provide student transport if needed. He can take them home when [no other method of transportation] is available. He has also picked up students and brought them to school.”
In regard to securing SRO funding, Honeycutt said the current setup is effective.
“I think they have a good plan in place,” he said. “We can still maintain an officer presence in all the schools. It is important for me to do walk-throughs every day.”
Love said she appreciates what Honeycutt does for all the schools in proximity to the high school.
“Daniel Honeycutt is wonderful to have on staff here,” Love said. “The physical presence when he walks the halls and the walkway is good for our students to see. He is always willing to work with us and help in a situation that we need him to.”