BETHANY (June 2019) – School security has a new face in Bethany – a full-time school resource officer the kids affectionately call Officer Z.
Zack Zamudio left his beat with the Bethany Police Department to walk the halls of Bethany Public Schools at the beginning of the last school year as part of several new measures designed to increase safety at the school.
“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.”
Previously, Bethany Public Schools hired off-duty police personnel to provide security for the schools but switched to a designated school resource officer to provide continuity and the capacity for a trained officer to build relationships with the students.
Zamudio, whose training includes crisis intervention, mental health and drug abuse prevention, knows Bethany students well enough that he can tell when they’re having a bad day. He not only keeps the building secure, he provides 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 bringing in Zamudio, Bethany has found new ways to protect its entrances. Before the first bell, school administrators greet every student at the door each morning. Each entryway has been retrofitted with vestibules where visitors must check in at an electronic kiosk with their driver’s licenses and be buzzed in to gain access to the office. The system initiates a basic background check on the license and alerts school personnel to potential red flags.
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