School liaison officers providing more than just security and law enforcement

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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- Most kids head back to school Tuesday, many will be greeted by a school liaison officer who are not only there to keep them safe, but to help in other ways as well.

"I'm just a big dork, so I kind of fit right in at junior high," laughed P.J. Jacobs Junior High School Liaison Officer Joe Quisler. "I get a lot of good feedback from students and then I get a lot of eye rolls too because I love telling the bad dad jokes."

The Stevens Point Police officer knows how to lighten the mood of school faculty and students.

"'Did you see? NASA, they built a new restaurant on the moon?' And they're like, 'oh no, it's coming,'" he said describing students' reaction to his 'bad dad jokes,' "and I'm like, 'yeah! Great food, no atmosphere!'"

Quisler explained lifting spirits is key to connecting with students dealing with dark realities.

"My hope for those students is that perhaps, they can trust adults, they can talk about those things, and we can help them in order that they can be successful academically," he said.

Quisler meets with kids everywhere and supervises all of their lunch hours. He also assists in classes, giving presentations about social media practices and other areas where students could come in contact with law enforcement.

"We talk about drugs, we talk about bullying, we talk about anger management, all of those types of skills that will help kids be successful here at our school," he listed.

"My most enjoyable part of my day is standing out in the morning with him to greet kids," Principal Dan Dobratz said fondly.

Dobratz has been working at the school since before there were liaison officers. He said he is grateful the city supports them.

"They build strong bonds with students and families, they give us additional resources and are able to help us, especially in serious situations, and most of all, they add another layer of security," he explained.

Ben Franklin Junior High saw the value of their school liaison officer after a student pushed an intruder alert alarm, putting their school on lockdown, then evacuating it. Quisler recalled securing entrances at P.J. Jacobs and screened everyone coming into the school.

"Situations can develop rapidly and I wanted to assure our staff and our students that we were ready at our school," he stated.

Quisler has to balance, tipping the scale to be more serious when the situation calls for it, and adding levity as he connects with students and staff.

Quisler also trains staff and students in ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate. It is specific training, teaching students and staff what their options are during a school shooting or if there is an active threat in the building. He also plans to do monthly critical thinking questions about those situations to staff.