Writer / Peyton Gigante
When you picture a school resource officer, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you think of your son’s football coach, or a person your child talks to when they start to feel anxious at school? Or perhaps someone that’s going to be there when your student’s safety is threatened?
Officer Matt Johnston has been working for Noblesville Schools for 17 years as a school resource officer, and he’s all of those things – confidant, friend, coach, teacher. But he’s also a police officer.
“I’m currently working in Noble Crossing Elementary School, but I still go frequently to the high school,” says Johnston, whom some alums refer to as “OJ.”
Officer Johnston is one of 10 resource officers in the Noblesville district, with each school having its own officer, and there is a supervisor in the high school. These 11 officers are hand-picked, and train through the National Association of School Resource Officers.
“We are police officers, but there is a triad concept within the schools,” Johnston says. “Not only do you have your officer role, but you’re also a teacher and a counselor.”
As a teacher and counselor, Johnston recently introduced Project Truth to Noblesville Schools, a program similar to D.A.R.E. but different in a unique way. It’s specifically tailored to the Noblesville community.
“We were able to modify the program so that we could teach kids about what’s going on inside our community, and outside our community,” Johnston says.
From peer pressure to vaping to how your student is feeling emotionally, the program Johnston designed gives participants the freedom to reach and connect with more students.
“We did all of that to hit just Noblesville, and then in the high school and middle schools we focus more on the digital citizenship, media, and laws and the constitution,” he says.
This isn’t the only program Johnston has helped to implement in the schools. He helped bring ALICE Training, an active shooter response program, to Noblesville Schools, and canines to sniff out drugs, bombs and ammunition.
“We are there to protect, but also to serve,” Johnston says. “We are there to try to help these kids, not only from a protection level, but we’re there to help serve and give them that support.”
Johnston says building relationships is the most rewarding part of the job.
“I work with the Unified Sports program, and have been coaching in that and the football program for years,” he says. “Making a connection with these kids and then also seeing them as adults is vso rewarding.”
The officers are in the art rooms, on the sidelines and in the classrooms, connecting every day with students to forge long-lasting relationships with law enforcement.
“We are safe to come to, and we are someone we want them to come to,” Johnston says. “I don’t want us to be seen as just a security guard. If your child needs support, we are there for them.”