Kevin Barney: Deputy in the schools
Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Deputy Kevin Barney enjoys helping kids and making a difference.
Barney meets with Berkeley Springs High School students that are having issues, talks with parents or teaches classes on hot topics. He also does presentations at Warm Springs Middle School and other schools.
Some classes and presentations are bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, teen dating violence, Internet safety, social networking, sexual harassment and stress. Other topics include respect, hunting rules and regulations and the effects of alcohol.
Barney will often team with a school guidance counselor for the presentations. He also does special events and assemblies.
Barney blends non-traditional types of classes into the classroom environment. In an art class, he might talk about graffiti. Barney could discuss angles in relation to self-defense and using one’s core strength in a geometry class. It can get very creative, which keeps it interesting, Barney said.
He said he uses real-life experiences to show kids how what they learn in school can help them later on.
4th year of program
Barney is in his fourth year as a prevention resource officer and is primarily stationed at Berkeley Springs High School. He was a Morgan County sheriff’s deputy and investigator, and then worked as a deputy in Frederick County, Virginia for two years.
The prevention resource officer program is funded through $36,000 of West Virginia Juvenile Accounta-bility Block Grant monies. The grant is supplemented by funding from the Morgan County School Board and the Morgan County Commission, Barney said.
Some 85% of Barney’s time must be spent in the schools. The remaining time allows him to go to court and work on investigations. Barney also responds to emergencies with other deputies and is also a member of the SWAT team.
The idea of the prevention resource officer program was instead of waiting for trouble to happen, to try to prevent it, Barney said.
Barney noted that he wasn’t a security guard and that he doesn’t discipline students. He can write up a referral and school officials will tend to it. However, his presence is a deterrent for some behaviors.
Some high school issues are with cell phones, texting and Facebook, Barney said. Kids get brave behind a keyboard or keypad and are writing more aggressively.
They’ll say things while texting on a cell phone that they would never say to someone’s face, he said. Because there are no facial expressions with texting, comments sometimes get read wrong.
Inappropriate photos have also been passed around. Barney said he has gone into classrooms and spoken to students about these issues.
With the cell phone policy waiver, referrals for cell phone use have dropped, he said. Students can use cell phones between classes and at lunch time.
Barney felt the new policy was teaching kids social responsibility, how to budget their time and that they need to pay attention in class.
“It’s a good life lesson,” he said.
The school board has a specific policy on bullying, Barney said. If there is a problem at a school, they do classes with students and explain their concerns, he said. He tries to make students feel safe at school.
Where he gets involved is harassment, battery (pushing) or larceny. (taking someone’s lunch money)
“A bully will pick on someone weaker,” Barney said.
Barney recently drove some high school students to talk with Warm Springs Intermediate School students about how they dealt with bullying. The program was organized by the Morgan County Partnership and English teacher Heather Lorigan.
In between his duties as a PRO officer, Barney does extensive paperwork that is a grant requirement.
Barney also creates presentations, which he shares with other state prevention resource officers. They are encouraged to share their materials because it saves time and expense, Barney said.
Barney attends training in Charleston for one week every year to be recertified as a prevention resource officer. This is his first year as a liaison for four other PRO officers in this sector. He monitors and reports on their progress and assists with their concerns.
Barney and current Sheriff’s Department Investigator Deputy Tony Link are investigators for Internet Crimes Against Children. (ICAC)
Barney has also chaperoned field trips to colleges with students and guidance counselor Candice Pennington. Some students have decided to attend college after their trips, he said.
Barney said it was fun being at the high school. His job was a lot of work, but it was easier once he got to know the kids. It was neat to watch students grow and go to college or to work, he said.
Barney felt it was a good program and said it gets in your blood, like being a police officer.
“If you get to help out a kid, it’s worth it,” Barney said.