First ‘school resource officer’ makes big difference at Southern Utah high school

Oct 11, 2023, 6:36 PM | Updated: 7:51 pm

BLANDING — How much of a difference can one person make? For high schoolers in Southern Utah, they’re seeing differences every day by someone new walking their halls.

This is their first homecoming at San Juan High School with Cole Palmer in his new role as student resource officer (SRO).

San Juan High School has never had an SRO before, something Palmer knows firsthand because he grew up in the area. Yet, students have warmed up to seeing Palmer walking the halls.

“Day one, everybody’s walking looking at you like, what is this guy doing here? But then by day two, day three, even week one, everybody’s fist pumping,” Palmer said.

Palmer spent more than four years as head coach for the track team, and at one time was helped coach the football team. Most recently, he served the Blanding community with the police force for more than three years.

“Cole is the kind of person that is going to walk into any place and be accepted for any role that he’s taking on, whether that’s as an officer, a coach, or a religious leader,” said Mayor Logan Monson for Blanding City.

Mayor Monson saw a need for an SRO for the high school and middle school in Blanding, and Palmer made the perfect candidate.

Using City Council and San Juan District funds, Mayor Monson approved the new role. Palmer said the need for a permanent police presence on the campuses had increased.

“We were responding constantly,” Palmer said  “Drugs, fights, violence, threats of violence, and a lot of theft.”

Safety was top of mind, and so was mental health.

“These are our most vulnerable population as far as age, and we have to support them in ways that maybe they’re not getting in other ways,” Mayor Monson said.

San Jaun High School has 428 students and nearly half of them are Native Americans.

Tzosilah Etsitty is one of them – her name means “female shooting star”.

Etsitty is a Junior at San Juan High. She calls Palmer her “best bro”.

“It was a little bit scary at first, but once you got to know Cole, he is really, really cool,” Etsitty said.

Etsitty said her race is respected by other students at school and that she hasn’t felt unsafe because of it, rather the other things students have brought to campus.

“We had a little bit of a trouble with drugs and alcohol last year, but I feel like it’s easing out because of Cole,” said Etsitty.

Tatum Begay, a Senior and student body officer said he’s felt safer with Palmer around as well.

“I know he loves us and will protect us,” Begay said.

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First ‘school resource officer’ makes big difference at Southern Utah high school