Cardinal High School

Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — Wapello County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Shadduck felt nervous starting his new job last Monday.

“I felt like a new kid at school,” he said.

In some respects, he was the new kid at school. Only in this instance, the kid has more than 21 years of experience in law enforcement.

Starting this year, the Cardinal school district has adopted the use of school resource officers provided by the Wapello County Sheriff’s Department. The Ottumwa school district has had a similar program in place with the police department for several decades.

Shadduck will be the first SRO to serve at Cardinal.

According to Joel Pedersen, Cardinal superintendent, negotiations to begin an SRO program began with the sheriff’s department two or three years ago. The school’s distance from first responders raised some concerns for student safety. Although Cardinal has few fights, another issue SROs are often tasked with handling, Pedersen believes there’s nothing wrong with making the campus that much safer. And Shadduck is a perfect fit.

“Shadduck has a perfect disposition for this job,” said Pedersen. “He’s been very visible and had a lot of great interactions with the kids.”

Just like the officers stationed at OHS, Shadduck’s responsibilities aren’t just limited to safety. He maintains a presence in the hallways and lunchrooms, provides a voice of comfort to the students and a person for them to talk to if the need arises. When the traffic before and after school gets too congested, Shadduck is there to direct it.

But Pedersen says that Shadduck also likes to add his own personal flair to the position. The superintendent reported that Shadduck is always smiling and giving the students high-fives, and likes to hand out stickers to the kids at Cardinal Elementary.

“He’s really trying to show that he’s here to help,” Pedersen said.

Much of the responsibility of an SRO is to show students that law enforcement officers are a resource rather than something to be feared. Unfortunately, as Shadduck said, many kids have their first interaction with law enforcement when they break the law. But a positive relationship with a law enforcement officer early could set them on a different trajectory.

Since Shadduck is the sole SRO at Cardinal, he is responsible for maintaining a presence at the high school, middle school, elementary school and alternative school. While others may find the responsibility exhausting, Shadduck said his first day was the first time in 21 years he left work with a smile on his face.

“[I’m] excited for the chance to interact with kids and guide them out of the path of people I’ve been working with for 21 years,” he said.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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