Rockford Public Schools partners with the city and police to take a different approach toward school resource officers. A two-year pilot program at Rockford’s East and Auburn high schools would have a non-sworn mentor to support students.

“There are students and families that have a very difficult time connecting with resource officers despite their best efforts,” said RPS 205 Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett.

As a supplemental program, the mentors would be an extra layer of support and an encouraging adult to check in on students.

“There won’t just be contact with the kids that law enforcement is aware of, but we also want the school administrators and staff to utilize the mentors,” said Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd. “If you have a student that you feel needs that extra support, that’s what the mentor is there for.”

Redd adds that this will be a trusted adult in the lives of the most vulnerable students.

The hope is that this mentor will help increase attendance, decrease behavioral incidents, and keep students on track academically.

“The mentors will be well-versed in resources that are available in our community and also connect the students and parents so that they get the wraparound services that are needed,” said Redd.

While this is a new idea that hasn’t been done in many schools, it’s a model that the superintendent believes is worth a try.

“We would continue to have resource officers and security guards,” said Jarrett. “I am really excited to potentially pave some new ground here with our partners, with the police and the City of Rockford, and think differently about that very significant investment we make in resource officers every year.”

After two years, the school board will evaluate the program.