By SRO Kjell Michelsen

It’s hard to believe that we are just a few short days away from starting yet another school year. When the last day of school arrives, it seems like there’s “an ocean of time” until school is back in session, but at least for me, it’s more like a “flash in the pan,” and the summer is slowly coming to an end.

My summers are a combination of work, training, and a little vacation. One of my highlights of the summer was meeting the former principal of Columbine High School, “Mr. De” himself, Frank DeAngelis during the SRO conference in Pigeon Forge. He had a compelling and moving presentation about that tragic day 20 years ago and his road forward from there.

Our SADD club also had a great year. The big highlight for our club was to win a national video contest about the dangers of driving distracted. Also, last school year our high school, for the second year in a row, was awarded the gold award from the Tennessee Highway Safety’s Office. This previous school year, we also were on top of their leaderboard of all the 208 registered high schools in Tennessee.

But that was all last year. This year we once again start with a blank slate ready to focus on teen driver safety, a renewed focus on all the SADD USA activities – ranging from traffic safety, substance abuse, teen mental health and more. We will also have a renewed focus on a reasonably new trend among teens, vaping. According to the Federal Drug Administration, the number of U.S. high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018 to 3.05 million, or 20.8 percent. Vaping is a growing problem, and with the help of our SADD club and Christy Smith with the Unicoi Prevention Coalition, we will focus much more on this in the years to come.

I am genuinely looking forward to all these challenges and being able to work with our students, administrators, faculty, and staff. Parents, caregivers, and fellow law enforcement professionals are an essential part of this team effort to make our high school a safe place for all to be. Our first game for our beloved Blue Devils football team is Aug. 23, and with that also is the kickoff for the fall season. I hope both will be great and last a long time.

Until next time, be safe, have fun, and go Blue Devils!