Tragically, we’ve become all too familiar with the worst case scenario in which a police officer arrives at a school. Today, as we finish another school year in Bozeman, let’s celebrate the best case scenario in which a police officer arrives at a school: SRO Eric Vandersloot.

Bozeman Police Officer Eric Vandersloot has served as a school resource officer for years, both at Sacajawea Middle School and several local elementaries. Yesterday, we said farewell and congratulations, Eric having earned a promotion to sergeant. Sacajawea Middle School will not be the same without him.

Eric Vandersloot is the best case scenario when we consider police in schools. With the expertise of a law enforcement officer, the calm demeanor of a seasoned veteran, and the heart of a parent, Eric was an integral part of our Sacajawea community. It was not unusual to see him joining the staff versus student basketball games for spirit night or teaching an eighth grade U.S. history class about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nor was it beyond him to instill confidence is us teachers when we had difficult conversations and challenging trainings to prepare us for those worst case scenarios when police arrive at schools.

For many of our students, Eric offered the opportunity to have a positive relationship with law enforcement; he routinely strived to establish mutual respect with our adolescent population, handling difficult situations with unwavering composure and dignity.

As he told my own students once, when they asked why he became a police officer, Eric is a helper. “I was made to help,” he stated simply. Eric, please know that you have helped Sacajawea Middle School more than you know. Thank you for being our best case scenario!

Katie Duncan