Interview with Officer Erik Schmidt

Can you tell me about your experience so far here at WHS?

I’ve been here for a year what I’ve been doing is getting into classrooms, giving presentations on things like gun safety, safety online, drugs as well as sexual assault.


What are some changes that you would like to see here in the high school?

I would say focusing on school safety, trying to make students are safe here. Looking at what’s worked in other high schools. What stuff we can implement. Obviously shooters are on everybody’s mind.


Where do you think poses the biggest problems with illegal substance abuse here in Waunakee?

The misuse of prescription medication. That seems to be on the rise now.


Are you taking a more direct approach with the students or attempting to enforce more rules and systems.

It’s mainly on a local level. By trying to get into the classrooms, explaining to them the side effects and how addictive opioids can be for people; the long term effects.


In general, have you seen more problems with alcohol or smoking in students?

E cigarettes seem to be the new thing that we’re doing. Vaping especially. We’re still learning how it affects people. The chemicals in E cigarettes we’re finding out in can cause stuff like popcorn lung or a cancer. We’re trying to get that message out to parents and students as quick as possible.


Do you think that the message that most students receive about the drawbacks of using illegal substances, the “scare tactics” do you think that works? Does it resonate well with students?

I don’t try to come in there and scare them. What I do is I give examples of what I’ve seen people go through in the past. This is my direct experience as a law enforcement officer and what I’ve seen. Take it for what it is; make the informed decision. What I’ve seen with the high schoolers that I’ve talked to, they’ve seen to responde a little better. Yeah, you can throw facts at them, but until they hear the story of someone, maybe a former student who went through troubles with drugs or alcohol abuse, it gets to their hearts and minds. Then you can have some positive outlook. People seem to be more receptive of that at this point.


What do the consequences for alcohol or substance abuse here at the high school look like?

We usually like to be consistent. We do give a municipal citation. We like them to at least meet in front of the judge, he can then decide if he wants to enforce AODA, a fine amount, or community service. We obviously let the parents know and keep them informed. We don’t like to make it too intrusive. They need help, we try to get them help as best we can. Still, we’ve got to hold them accountable for it.


Do you think students who struggle with substance abuse know where to get help?

I’ll usually try to let the parents know of certain outreach groups. If I feel like a student needs help I’ll definitely contact social workers here. We have an AODA coordinator, I’d let her know. I’d keep them in the loop; school, parents, law enforcement working together to get them in the right direction.


Do you think that as a figure of authority students sometimes are afraid to come to you when they have substance abuse problems. That they view you as a figure of punishment instead of someone who just wishes to help?

Law enforcement by some people is viewed that way [as a figure of punishment instead of support] that’s why if I do go into a classroom I try to offer them other options too that they can use to help fight whatever battle they’re facing. That is why having a school resource officer in the schools [is important] it puts a face to the uniform. They can come to me and I’m not always gonna cite them. I’m not always going to arrest them. If they need help we can give it to them.


Where are all of these substances that students use generally come from?

Marijuana is obviously sold from several different people and not just in Waunakee. Usually from friends selling it to other friends. Prescription medication, sometimes parents have it and students know where it is. It’s not secured and they can take it from their parents without them knowing. It varies for each specific drug.


A big thing is heroin. It seems to be a big issue, not just in Waunakee but nationwide. We’re trying to work to combat this. I know in Waunakee Narcan is the medicine that helps reverse the side effects of heroin. In Waunakee within 2017 we had to Narcan people seven times and already twice in 2018. Initially, students turn towards these substances because of peer pressure. Certain drugs have a higher addiction rate and once you do that at a young age you’re more likely to become addicted later on in life.