THIS STORY RAN IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE NEWTON KANSAN ON AUG. 21, 2008.

Not every new adult face in Newton’s elementary schools this fall belongs to a teacher — there’s also a black-belt-level martial artist who wears a badge who greeted kids when school started.

Newton police officer Brad Celestin will be in the halls of all of USD 373’s elementary schools as a school resource officer.

“Of all the positions I could have with the police department, this is the place I really want to be,” Celestin said.

His position will be funded with grant funds. The school district is waiting on the funds from a grant that also will fund more security cameras and other security measures in the school system.

The idea of a school resource officer isn’t something new.

Chad Gay serves as the high school resource officer, while Randy Jordan serves as the middle school resource officer.

Up until now, Gay and Jordan have split responsibilities at the elementary school level when a resource officer was needed.

“He will be a great help for us,” Jordan said. “Having him will keep us from having to leave our schools to work at the elementary schools. Chad and I have more than what we can do at our own schools.”

And it gives the elementary schools a full-time presence.

As a school resource officer, Celestin will provide classroom help for drug and safety programs. He’ll get to know kids and build relationships with parents.

“For those who don’t see me or police in a positive light, this will be good for us,” Celestin said. “Most of the kids here are excited to see me. They think my badge is cool.”

But being a school resource officer also is about protecting those kids — some who are abused at home.

That’s not a pretty situation, but one that becomes known in school as a child’s behavior changes or they

confide in a teacher.

That’s when having an SRO is key, Celestin said.

“I can do things and follow up in ways that the school can’t,” Celestin said. “If something gets reported here, I can go to that child’s home and follow it.”

“Having an officer right there when a kid discloses about abuse and those things can help a lot,” Jordan added. “When a kid is in crisis, we can deal with it immediately, and the reality is sometimes they need that help right now. They can’t wait a week until all the reports are filed with agencies. They don’t need to go back home where the abuse is taking place.”

Celestin plans to be in every elementary every week, starting with being at breakfast at a different building each day.

He said he knows splitting time among five locations will be difficult, but that hasn’t put a damper on his excitement about being in schools this year.

“I am super excited about this,” Celestin said. “I never saw a police officer as a young kid, and they were always intimidating to me