Fredericktown Police Department officer Mike Tiefenauer, left, and Miller County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Andy Wickham explain Thursday morning to preschool students at St. Martin School when and when not to call 911. Photo by Phillip Sitter /News Tribune.

Law enforcement officers from departments in four states, including from the Cole County Sheriff’s Department, joined students Thursday at St. Martin Catholic School for class in order for the officers to pass their own D.A.R.E. certification.

Cole County Lt. Kevin Woodson — who is also a mentor with the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, which organized the event — explained officers who seek to become D.A.R.E.-certified have to pass an 80-hour curriculum that includes demonstrations of their ability to be comfortable around and communicate with schoolchildren.

D.A.R.E. is a long-running national anti-drug and anti-violence program for youth — at St. Martin School, it’s taught in sixth grade, Principal Eddie Mulholland said.

“We get to show these guys the opposite side of the street,” Woodson said of what it means for the officers to see and interact with the people they want to protect and get to know — students.

He said his time serving as a school resource and D.A.R.E. officer were the best assignments of his law enforcement career. He’s been an officer for 29 years and was a D.A.R.E. instructor for 22 years.

“It’s about security, safety, protection” and learning what things are good and not good, Mulholland said of what the event meant for his students.

Approximately a dozen officers at St. Martin School practiced their education skills in classrooms with students of all ages, and Woodson said there were groups of the same size Thursday at St. Stanislaus School in Wardsville and in Eugene.

The officers at St. Martin were from Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri and included a K-9 unit from Baxter County, Arkansas.

Deputy Amber Gabriel of the Cole County Sheriff’s Department taught students about different styles of communication and had students act out postures, body language and speaking tones.

In the same middle school math classroom, Boone County Sheriff’s Department Deputy James Gaddis — a school resource officer in Ashland’s school district — had students give examples of bullying; and Ellis County, Kansas’ Undersheriff Scott Brown talked to students about peer pressure.

“You can, but is it going to mean as much?” Gaddis asked students of saying sorry online for cyber-bullying.

After their classroom time, officers enjoyed some playground time with students.

Officers’ D.A.R.E. graduation was September 28.

By Phillip Sitter | News Tribune