BETHANY, Okla. – Students in Bethany can feel safer thanks to a few high-profile changes by the district.
Zack Zamudio left his beat with the Bethany Police Department to walk the halls of Bethany Public Schools as a school security officer.
“We’re not policing the school; we’re securing the school,” Zamudio said. “Shutting off the police mode and switching to security mode was tough at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s so much more enjoyable. You can truly make a difference here that you can’t make on the streets.”
In the past, Bethany Public Schools hired off-duty police personnel to provide security for the schools. However, the district decided to switch to a designated school resource officer to provide continuity and to allow a trained officer to build relationships with the students.
Zamudio, who is affectionately known as Officer Z, is now providing a safe space for students who need help in their personal lives.
“Whereas the kids watch the way they present themselves in front of administrators and teachers, they feel more comfortable coming in my office, being themselves and speaking like they would normally speak. For them, that helps relieve some of the stress and anxieties they may have,” Zamudio said. “I’m very lucky to get to play that role.”
In addition to hiring Zamudio, Bethany has retrofitted each entryway with electronic kiosks where visitors must be buzzed in to gain access to the office. The system, which uses the visitor’s driver’s license, initiates a basic background check and alerts school personnel to potential red flags.
“We want to make sure that our kids and our parents feel like they’re in a safe environment, because learning can’t occur if we have kids who are worried about whether they’re going to be safe or not. We want to put just enough in place to know who’s coming in and out of the school and that we know we have measures that make sure people don’t get into school who shouldn’t be here,” Bethany Superintendent Drew Eichelberger said.