by Tristan Jackson
Every day, he comes into the school.
As he walks by students, they nod their head at him in respect for what he does to ensure their safety. With his uniform cleanly pressed, and his mindset on protecting Jeff High, officer Rusty Settles will do whatever he may have to do to keep Jeff, and the students within it, safe.
In a time where gun control, and school safety, is a hot topic, Settles follows a routine each morning to ensure students can go about with a normal day.
“When I get here everyday, I try to walk the building and check the doors,” Settles says. “I make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Once that’s done, I always try to be visible throughout passing times.”
Being visible throughout the school can be tough, though, especially with a school as big as Jeff. Roughly 2,100 students attend JHS, and while the school is in a closed-campus setting, the building still spans a large area.
“I feel safe when I see Officer Settles in the hallways,” said senior Kip Jackson. “I love that I see him in more than one location in the school. He’s always checking up on me and my fellow students.”
Settles has been on the Jeffersonville Police Department for 25 years, as of June. When a position within the high school opened itself up, Settles found the job interesting and wanted to learn more about it.
Little did Settles know, though, that the job would be so critical for student safety years later.
Recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 14 students and three teachers were killed, have brought jobs like Officer Settles’ into the spotlight.
“There are lots of factors in how people view how we do our job. School shootings have caused a lot of different things, a lot of different ways, a lot of different mindsets,” Settles says. “Just think of how students feel when the fire alarm goes off. (They) call mom and dad. (Their) mindset has changed.”
But according to Settles, recent tragedies have not just changed students and parents — his frame of mind has been affected, too.
“My perspective on what has just happened (in Parkland), yeah it’s changed. It goes through my mind, I can’t say it doesn’t,” Settles says. “But I can say, I know some students that would report to me. I, along with the school corporation, will take what they would report and investigate thoroughly to help keep you safe.”
While Jeffersonville High School is fortunate to have Settles on duty full-time, some around the country would like to see teachers armed, or having more guns within the schools.
“It would be nice to have someone else to help investigate certain things. I always reach out to my colleagues at the (police) department for some help with things,” Settles says. “I don’t want to get overzealous with it, but with where we are today and the actions taking place within the country, it may need to be looked at over extra security or people trained to use a gun.
“Ask me a week from now,” Settles continued, “it might be different.”
But even with everything going on, Settles finds one thing is more important than anything else: his relationships he has built along the way.
“I want to build rapport with you guys. You need to know me, I need to know you,” Settles says of students. “That, in itself, is the most important thing.Through the NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers) training program, I learned the number one thing is building that rapport to help create communication between each other.”
Building trust throughout JHS helps make Officer Settles’ job smoother, and create for a more welcoming environment at Jeff High.
“People may ask me why safety and keeping guns out is not the top priority,” said Settles. “But it is. The talk and communication can help prevent such things from every happening. My job is proactive and reactive.”