Orleans police have launched a new program at Nauset Regional Middle School. This school year, Orleans Police School Resource Officer Casey Eagan will be handing out "character coins" when she personally witnesses an act of integrity, true character or compassion.
The obverse of the enamel police patch-shaped coin bears the words "integrity", "character" and "compassion" and the Orleans town seal and the reverse features the Nauset Regional School logo "N" and the slogan "every child matters".
Officer Eagan based the idea for her coin program on NRMS's existing and continuing "Random Acts of Kindness" program. Under that program, teachers and school staff members nominate students after witnessing a random act of kindness. That student's name is read during morning announcements and they receive a reward (credit for use in the school store).
Officer Eagan's program will give her the opportunity to reach out to students with less fanfare--in a more one-on-one way. By pulling a student aside and giving them a coin, she can quietly and personally acknowledge that student's commendable action. The coin itself is a constant reminder of the power and importance of treating others with respect.
With the hectic first few days of school last week and students settling into a comfortable routine this week, Officer Eagan expects to begin passing out the coins soon. In a phone interview she acknowledged the vital support the adults at NRMS provide students, but said peer-to-peer support can have an even more poignant and lasting effect. Lending a hand or offering a kind word can make a big difference in a student's day. It can mean even more when it comes from another student.
This will be the third year the SRO program is in place at Nauset Regional Middle School, and Officer Eagan's second year. "Officer Eagan developed wonderful, positive relationships with students last year and I know she will again this year," NRMS Principal Maxine Minkoff said. In addition to her duties as school resource officer, Officer Eagan coaches the school's co-ed volleyball club, another opportunity to interact with the school's 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
As coins had not yet been handed out last week, Dr. Minkoff said it would be hard to comment on the program but said, "The character coins will be one more way she [Officer Eagan] can re-enforce the kind of behavior--kindness and respect--that we so highly value at the Middle School. Getting a 'reward' such as a character coin from someone the kids look up to so much can only be a good thing."
Officer Eagan hopes the coins will also enable her to build a bridge and approach students who may find police officers intimidating. Positive reinforcement from Officer Eagan and her approachable nature will undoubtedly helps students grasp that we are all part of the same community and help them see that police officers and other public safety figures are their friends.
In 2014 a state task force presented a report to then Gover Deval Patrick entitled "School Safety and Security". The report outlined the important role of school resource officer in the Commonwealth's schools. "A school resource officer can play a key role in keeping a school both physically and psychologically safe through balancing the three roles of educator, informal counselor and law enforcement officer," the report said.
Officer Eagan is a graduate of Barnstable High School and has a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice from Westfield State University. She has been with the Orleans Police Department since 2013.
During the 2014-2015 school year, there were 556 students enrolled at Nauset Regional Middle School, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.