After the shooting, Westside, as well as many of the other schools in the Jonesboro area, brought in school resource officers (SROs). These are trained law enforcement officials who spend most, if not all, of their time at the school. Their main objectives are safety and security, through education and open lines of communication with students. Students were thought to be more comfortable confiding in an adult who does not have the same authoritative relationship with them as their teachers. One function of an SRO is therefore to get to know students and establish trust so that students will come to them if they hear of threats or know of students who are in trouble. Students at Westside have confided in the SRO about other students who have brought drugs, knives, and other small weapons into the school. SROs are also on hand for particularly difficult disciplinary meetings with parents, when they refuse to accept that their child has done anything wrong and become angered at the school. Although there was initially resistance to having an officer with a weapon on the campus, most teachers and administrators with whom we spoke, as well as many parents, thought that having an SRO at the school was an important part of maintaining school security.
Westside has also added adult monitors to its school buses since the shooting, in an effort to keep order over the chaotic environment which was said to be the site of much of Johnson and Golden’s planning. Other reports attest to the frequent bullying and teasing that occurs on the school buses, and students say the monitors have helped, although the teasing certainly has not disappeared.
The community response to the school’s increased attention to security and monitoring has generally been positive. However, one unintended consequence of this increased surveillance and harsh punishment for infractions has been to drive some of the violence out of the school. Knowing that they will be dealt with severely for fighting on school grounds, students have informally arranged meeting places for fights off location, where school officials have no jurisdiction. A nearby gas station and a local field serve as the meeting grounds for these old-style show-downs when someone is challenged to a fight.
A minority has also voiced concern that the presence of a law enforcement official on the school grounds results in more students ending up in the criminal justice system. The SRO can report to the sheriff any rule violation that involves criminal activity, including weapon or drug possession and even fighting in the hallway. Juvenile court officials say that they process more students from schools with an SRO than without one. This criticism of the SROs is relatively rare, but there do seem to be mixed feelings toward the more extensive crackdown on student behavior that comes with these improved security initiatives, particularly zero tolerance. Many people recognize that such a policy is necessary, but there is