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by Mark Cheffey
When Palmyra R-I students return to school later this month there will be a new school resource officer on the job.
Kristen Rathbone, a member of the Palmyra Police Department since 2019, has taken on the role of providing police protection for the district’s three school buildings.
“I’m ready for it,” said Rathbone, who got a taste of the job last year.
“I’m excited to get back to schools,” she said. “It’s going to be a good time. I did the first year as a trial run to see how it worked, and I really enjoyed it.”
Since the last school year, Rathbone took SRO training as well as training in a new program being brought into the middle school.
Rathbone is a familiar with the school district having graduated from Palmyra High School in 2015.
She then joined the Army Reserves, taking basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. before attending advanced individual training in motor transportation operation at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Rathbone attended a week-long SRO training program in Jefferson City this summer, preparing her for her new role.
“It was great,” Rathbone said. “I learned so much, not only from the instructors but from the other students I was with.”
Not only will she be helping protect students and staff from possible threats, but will also serve as a liaison between the schools and the police department.
“I want to be a positive police presence in front of the kids so they know I’m somebody they can come to and trust,” she said.
She said she also plans to work with non-profits to bring special programs to each of the school buildings.
Rathbone will spend time at the middle school instituting a new program called S.T.A.R.T. to replace D.A.R.E.
The new Substance, Tobacco, Alcohol Resistance Training was created by the St. Charles Police Department as a more economical and flexible substitute for D.A.R.E.
““It’s similar to D.A.R.E., but its a little less restrictive in terms of how I want to teach it,” Rathbone said. “I can swap lessons around if I want to. If I think there is more of an issue with peer pressure rather than a tobacco issue in the school then I can swap them around.”
She said she is able to utilize feedback from teachers to make the program more focused for needs at the middle school.
“I plan on talking to the staff and principals beforehand and have them tell me what the main issues are in grades specifically and start with that priority,” she said.
Rathbone said she enjoyed the three-day S.T.A.R.T. training she attended in St. Charles, and came away impressed with the program.
“They have no intention of making a profit off of it, and they gave me everything I needed as far as information and the books, Power Points and lesson plans,” she said.
The S.T.A.R.T. program will be presented to fifth and sixth graders this year, since last year’s fifth graders didn’t get to take it.
According to the St. Charles Police Department website, S.T.A.R.T. “is a comprehensive and adaptable substance abuse prevention curriculum primarily for fifth grade stu-dents.”
For the duration of a semester, students will learn about critical issues facing youth today, such as tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, bullying and cyberbullying, peer pressure and citizenship.
Each lesson is focused on helping students understand positive and negative decision-making and providing them with the tools necessary to confidentially express the program’s motto: “Start by saying NO!”