New Madison Local school resource officer 'already making a difference'

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For the first time ever, students in the Madison Local School District in Richland County are walking the halls with law enforcement officers.

Deputy Bryce Ernsberger took on his new role in January and said he's making it a priority to get to know each student. At Madison Comprehensive High School, sophomore Nate Barrett said he was happy to see the deputy in the building.

"Because I can come to school and know I'm safe, and we know we have someone out there that's looking out for us," Barrett said.

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Approximately 3,000 students attend Madison Local, which has dealt with its share of incidents. In 2018, at the high school and middle school combined, the sheriff's office responded to a half dozen drug offenses, nine reports of assault and five bomb threats.

Deputy Ernsberger said his mere presence is already making a positive difference so far.

"I've been here for more calls when I was on the road for different things than I have been since I've been here," Ernsberger said.

He's working to build trust with students so they feel safe coming to him to share information or seek advice, and that includes troublemakers.

"A lot of times, I try to give them a warning and say I'm here now, this can't happen again. So, I'm not just coming out and throwing them to the wolves," Ernsberger said.

The sheriff's deputy said he recently received a tip from a concerned student that allowed him to launch an intervention and stop a fight before it started.

"I believe if I was on the road and there was no school resource officer here, that fight would have happened," Ernsberger said.

The deputy's claim is getting some back up from Barrett.

"Kids will be doing things they're not supposed to in the bathroom — fights, bomb threats," the teen said. "Once (Ernsberger's) here, I've heard less stories about that."

The Richland County Sheriff's Office said Deputy Ernsberger will try to visit every school in the district, including the elementary schools, at least once a week.

The sheriff's office said its goal is to have a resource officer at all county schools in the next few years.