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story.lead_photo.caption Chris Carter, new Pangburn School District resource officer, stands outside Pangburn High School. Carter is also a deputy for the White County Sheriff’s Office, where he has worked for a year. Carter is a native of Dallas, Texas, having moved to central Arkansas in 2000. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— For the first time, the Pangburn School District has a full-time school resource officer.

Chris Carter, a deputy for the White County Sheriff’s Office, started his new position Tuesday at the White County school district.

“After the tragedy last spring and just some of the concerns the community had about school safety, we decided to go this route,” said Pangburn Superintendent David Rolland, referring to the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. “What we had done, we started in March. We hired off-duty sheriff’s deputies. We had someone here every day, but it was someone different. Then we joined into a partnership with the White County Sheriff’s Office to hire a full-time resource officer.”

Rolland said the district conducted interviews in August before deciding on Carter, who has 20 years of law enforcement experience.

“I think it speaks a lot about our campus and our community that this hadn’t been seen as a need before the tragedy in Florida,” Rolland said. “The reason we went this way was more out of you just never know what could happen anywhere. You always want to be prepared.”

Carter said he’s excited about the opportunity to work closely with the Pangburn schools, as well as getting to know people in the area.

“Basically, it’s an opportunity to reach out and work in this area,” said Carter, who has been with the White County Sheriff’s Office for about a year. “The school district is quite a bit larger than the town of Pangburn. It stretches out into the county. It gives the Sheriff’s Office an opportunity to reach out to those kids who would not normally be able to benefit from that.

“The Pangburn School District is very forward-thinking in trying to reach out and kick-start that program with the Sheriff’s Office.”

Carter said what Pangburn was wanting to do appealed to him.

“I’ve got a broad range of military and law enforcement experience over the past 20 years,” he said. “I thought this offered the great opportunity to take some of that experience and training that I’ve had to help kick-start this program.”

According to his biography on the Pangburn School District Facebook page, Carter began his career in Dallas in 1994. He served in the Marines for four years, returning home in 1998. He moved to Arkansas in 2000.

Carter has worked in various positions of law enforcement, including patrol supervisor, bike patrol, field-training officer, voice stress analyst, defensive tactics and SWAT.

“I decided to move up here to central Arkansas in 2000,” he said. “That was 18 years ago. Since then, I’ve really loved Arkansas. I just loved everything about it and made it my permanent home.”

Carter was interviewed toward the end of his first day at Pangburn on Tuesday.

“It’s going really well,” he said. “They’ve got me set up. We’re going to hit the ground running, setting up the different programs that we’re going to use to interact with the students. It’s going to be a broad range of things.”

Carter said the school-resource-officer program has been around for more than 20 years.

“Obviously, everyone thinks of an active shooter and an active threat being the tipping point, but the SRO programs have been around for a long time,” he said. “They were around way before that was a real threat.

“It is going to be dual purpose in that regard. We’re going to be engaging the students, but we’re also going to be putting in place other safeguards for active threats and active shooters, but also for disaster preparedness, whether it be a tornado or any other critical incident.”

Rolland said that with the district hiring Carter, he’s already getting good feedback.

“We want to set up a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office, where not only is he a safety mechanism for the school, but he is also bringing a lot of educational resources into our school, a lot of grant opportunities. It’s also a chance for our students to see a police officer in a positive light as well. There is a lot in the media today with negativity about the police. I think it’s important for our students to see the positive side of what a police officer can be.”

Pangburn’s district consists of 780 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

“He’ll be on our campus during the schooldays and at a lot of extracurricular events,” Rolland said of Carter.

Carter said he’s ready for his job to get going forward.

“We’ve got a full plate head of us,” he said “You’ve got a school district that is forward-thinking and a Sheriff’s Office that is giving us resources to work with, so hopefully, we can get them implemented and make this growing community something to be looked up to.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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