‘We’re here for them:’ How school resource deputies help the students they serve

Deputies become teachers, mentors

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Flagler County Deputy Sheriff Sierra Held has only been a school resource deputy since last summer, but she already knows she doesn’t want to do anything else.

“I was ready to leave law enforcement and ready to be done to start a new career,” Held said. “If I never have to leave the schools and can be there with all the kids, absolutely that is what I’m going to do. I love it so much.”

Held said her first challenge in school is teaching her students what to call her.

“I walk in every day and every kid is like, ‘Good morning Miss Deputy,’ because a lot of kids can’t pronounce the ‘D’ in my last name, so they get ‘Deputy Hell,’” Held said with a smile. “I say, You can call me Miss Deputy, it’s OK.’”

After four years on patrol, Held took the school resource deputy position at Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach right around the same time that Sheriff Rick Staly worked out a partnership with the Flagler County School District to create a curriculum and dedicated class time for deputies in elementary schools.

B.E.A.R., Being Excellent and Respectful, is “geared toward providing instruction and safety information that is age-appropriate and law enforcement related.”

Third grade will focus on bike safety, fourth and fifth grade will focus on bullying, and sixth grade will focus on threats and the role of a law enforcement officer.

Staly said the teaching and mentoring is important but the priority is building trust between the students and law enforcement.

“It’s not just we arrest you and write tickets,” Staly said. “We know how kids learn, their behavior starts at a very young age. So I felt we needed to get more engaged and have a true curriculum. We want the kids to know we’re here for them.”

Held dwells on bullying and the dangers of social media, telling her students, “It’s your duty as a human being to help that person who is being bullied,” and, “If you have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all.”

But every interaction is centered around building, or in some cases, rebuilding trust.

“A lot of kids they see all the stuff on Facebook and Instagram and they kind of get that negative aspect, but when I come in every morning I’m like, ‘Good morning, how’s your day going? Hope you have an amazing day,’ and then I see them at lunch,” Held said. “It kind of gives them that thought of ‘I’m seeing all this but she’s acting like this, I don’t understand how law enforcement is bad.’ And it helps build that trust with them. And then they’re more likely to come to me about what’s going on.”

Held said sometimes she has to overcome what children have already learned.

“A lot of the times kids learn from their parents, kids take the police from their parents and the trust the parents have because maybe they had an incident and didn’t go the way they wanted, so it kind of broke the parents’ trust,” Held said. “So that transfers down to the kids and a parent says, ‘Don’t talk to the cops,’ or ‘Cops are not good’ but when I go in that school and interact with them every day or play with them at recess or I help them learn Google Slides or stuff in the school, it kind of changes that perception. Because it goes from officers are bad, law enforcement is bad to, ‘She’s really nice, like, she helped me when I really needed to help.’”

Held said creating a trusting relationship means students are more likely to come to her with information about not just what’s occurring at school, but also at their home.

Recently a little boy caught up in the middle of a custody battle was afraid of going with one parent so he shared his fear with Held and she stepped in so the boy could go where he felt safe, according to Held.

Every morning, the boy finds Held at the school to give her a hug and a thank you.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.