FRANKFORT – Every Friday, police tape cordons off one corner of the Reese Road Elementary School cafeteria, not to mark where something bad has happened, but to signify something great. Every Friday, in that corner of the lunch room, students are rewarded for good behavior by eating lunch with a police officer.
School Counselor Deanna Williams and Resource Officer Dale Griffith created Picnic with a Police Officer four weeks ago.
“It encourages positive behavior and is promoting a positive view of police too,” Williams said. “It’s really catching on now. The kids love it.”
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade receive nominations to participate in the lunch program by demonstrating behavior that is “safe, respectful and responsible” throughout the week, Williams said. Each teacher handles the nominations in their own way, she said, with some picking deserving students themselves, some leaving it up to students to nominate one another and others putting it up for a vote within their classroom. In the end, each classroom sends one or two students to Picnic with a Police Officer each week.
“The kids get excited about it now. They love it,” Williams said. “He (Griffith) is so great with them. We’re lucky to have a resource officer who is interested in doing things like this and isn’t just here to respond to a crisis. He gives each one a police sticker and brings in donuts and the kids get freezer pops. We try to make it special.”
Students also receive a slip to bring home congratulating them on their good behavior and subsequent nomination.
“I love it,” said Griffith, who has been the resource officer at Reese Road Elementary since February. “The kids are so cute. They ask questions about being a police officer and I like to bring in an extra treat for them. I hope they have as much fun as I do.”
When the weather improves, Williams and Griffith intend to move the lunch outside to be a true picnic with a police officer.
Williams said the idea for the program was inspired by a social-worker friend who puts on a coffee with a cop community initiative in Utica.