The new badge at United South Central
In loco perentis.
This is the phrase Ryan Murphey, the new School Resource Officer (SRO) for United South Central School, uses as a constant reminder for his new position.
“It means being like the parent in Latin, and that’s what the school does, really. We are their parent during the day. I think as long as I remember that, I will remember how great of a responsibility it is that I have,” says Murphey.
Murphey is originally from the Minneapolis area. He currently resides in Dodge Center with his two children. They are now students at USC and are currently beginning their permanent move to Wells.
“We just found a house here, and now that I’m full-time, this will become our new community on all fronts,” says Murphey.
Though he’s not as young as most college students, Murphey did just graduate from Minnesota State University, Mankato last December with a degree in criminal justice.
As a single father, Murphey had the opportunity to go to school when his daughter was three years old and he took that opportunity and ran with it. After starting work in Kasson in 2012 as a reserve officer, then working for Olmstead County, Murphey found an opportunity for work in Wells.
“I applied for and received a part-time position in Wells, and then this came up,” he says.
After USC schools and the city of Wells discussed it at a few City Council meetings, it was determined that the school would receive a full time SRO from the Wells Police Department.
Murphey says as soon as the position came up, he knew he would be a good fit for the job and immediately addressed Chief of Police, Tim Brennigan.
“With his encouragement, I applied for the job on a Friday and got the job that following Monday,” he says with a smile. “I am super grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team and to be in a position where I can make a difference.”
Murphey has had special SRO training and is continuing his training for his position. The reason is because there are so many components to the position besides police academy training.
“I wear a lot of hats including that of a social worker, a child advocate and sometimes even a non-custodial parent. There are a lot of elements to my job that I didn’t know about, but am really embracing,” Murphey explains.
He was not expecting so many extra parental-type roles at first, but says it is critical to the job because interacting with children of different ages is key to communication and growth. Knowing how to talk to a seven-year-old versus a 17-year-old is key to both him and the student he is speaking with.
What Murphey has learned is the large amount of psychology involved with children, their behaviors, and how to interact with them.
“Although the younger students need to be held accountable for their actions, sometimes they just don’t understand their behavior may hurt somebody or that their words are unkind. Some of it is discipline, but some of those situations are growing lessons,” he says.
Murphey says he is very thankful for a program the Wells community has called the LCC, or the Local Coordinating Council.
The program is based on referrals from different groups such as the school, law enforcement, and other community groups about children with multiple needs.
When a child is having behavioral issues and Murphey sees the child’s name on the LCC’s list, he then knows what specific goals need to be reached or what issues are lying underneath the behavior.
“You get the full picture of what’s going on in that student’s life and not just a snapshot of it,” he says.
But, behavior is just a small portion of Murphey’s job as USC’s SRO. He says the best part of the job is working with the kids.
Murphey says it is important for him to not have a set routine for security purposes, but he does make an exception to that rule in the mornings when students come to school.
“I like talking with the kids, giving out high fives and I have some pretty sweet stickers the kids really enjoy, but at the same time, I’m making sure students are using the crosswalk safely and being safe before they start their day,” he says.
With all of the negative media attention surrounding SRO’s, Murphey is making it his mission to break that stereotype, and Superintendent Jerry Jensen has told Murphey how well he is smashing that poor image.
“He says I have a great balance between a commanding presence and relationship building with the students, and that is what I want to do with this job. It’s a fine, delicate balance, much like being a parent.”
Murphey says, like being a parent, he has to pick his battles, but still has to give enough consequences to address the concerns while still building relationships with students.
“I do have training on handling violent situations such as intruders or students wanting to commit violence, and that is very rare, but it is a large component as to why I am here. It’s not an illusion of safety, I will do my best to keep this school safe because I have the training and the background to do so,” he says.
As Murphey hands out a few high fives, and takes out a few sticker requests, it is very obvious he has already built a strong and friendly rapport with students.
“School does play a vital role in students’ lives. There are very real issues our children face at home that we may not be seeing,” explains Murphey. “There’s their world and then there’s our real world. Sometimes we have to help them understand the real world with lessons and behavioral consequences, but sometimes, we also have to understand what’s going on in their world.”
Whether he’s reading in classrooms, talking to students one on one, or having to deal with behavioral problems, one thing is certain, USC has just gained another caring parent to work along side their staff and faculty.