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AstonState College Area School District continues to be proactive when it comes to safety and security. School resource officer, Detective John Aston, joined the school district’s staff in April 2018 in preparation for long-time officer Terry Stec’s retirement. While Aston’s time as resource officer is still in its early stages, his policing experience in the State College area spans nearly a quarter century.

An impressive career in policing

Aston took the State College Police test while studying at Penn State University. After graduating in 1994 with a B.A. in Administration of Justice, he joined the State College Police Department and attended the Harrisburg Area Community College Police Academy.

“I had an interest in policing growing up and all through high school… I also really enjoyed the criminal justice program in college,” Aston says.

Aston began his career in security working the night shift as a patrol officer. In addition to being a bicycle patrol officer and field training officer, he has been a member of the Honor Guard for twenty years. In 2003, Aston became a detective specializing in crime scene processing and was certified as a Crime Scene Tech in Pennsylvania. He specialized in white collar crime, fraud investigations, and social media investigations. In 2011, Aston also became certified in Cell Phone Forensics.

After becoming a detective in 2003, Aston served 11 years as a juvenile detective. He worked alongside Centre County police agencies, Children and Youth Services, juvenile probation, defense attorneys, public defenders, the district attorney’s office and the school’s resource officers. It was these experiences that made Aston stand out as a top candidate when he decided to pursue his new position with the State College Area School District.

“I became very familiar with the juvenile justice process and the procedures within the school district,” Aston says. “I started working exclusively with the school’s resource officers and handling all the school incidents that required follow-up or arrest. When the officer position opened, I felt I had extensive training and experience not only with the officer position, but the day-to-day operations in the school and the established relationship between the district and the police department.”

In addition to meeting the job requirements, Aston has four children that give him personal perspective on the value of the position. Although Aston’s children—a senior, sophomore, and two middle schoolers—are in a different district, they shed a personal light on serving in a school environment.

Since entering the role of resource officer, Aston has enjoyed becoming integrated into the schools.

“Each day has brought with it new, exciting and sometimes challenging issues,” Aston says. “I look forward to meeting and working with students and staff each day.”

Aston feels fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated professionals who share a common goal: the education and safety of everyone in the schools. The diversity of the student body has left a positive impression on Aston as well. Having met numerous students already, he’s impressed by each of them and their desire to develop into young, responsible adults.

Although the safety and security of the students, staff and faculty during daily operations is his primary role, Aston’s responsibilities extend beyond serving as a police officer. Aston serves as a legal resource for students and staff, a mentor for students and a positive image of law enforcement.

“I am also involved in education and counseling, and try to be available as a positive resource for everyone in the district community,” Aston adds.

A continued commitment to security

This position is a testament to the school district’s commitment to safety and security. Aston is one of three school resource officers—two full-time and one part-time. While it is currently Aston who covers the high school, there is potential for additional security or an additional officer once the new high school is complete.

The district recently purchased 150 new radios. The goal is to facilitate instantaneous communication and improve security measures for school operations and emergency response.

“The district was forward-thinking with purchasing a batch of radios to be used district wide in all the schools,” Aston says. “The radios have various channels, which allow communications within each school, as well as district-wide ability and has a 911 channel that is a direct communication to the 911 Communications Center.”

On a day-to-day basis the radios allow each school to have their own “talk group,” but should there be a need, they can communicate with all radios simultaneously. In addition to their direct connection to 911, the regular use of the radios reduces reaction times, shortens response times and creates more efficiency in general. Radios are carried by the school nurse, security officers, maintenance, administration, staff outside on playgrounds, physical education teachers and all front desk staff at each school.

“The commitment to security, especially security in the school and a school as large as State High, needs to be constant and ongoing,” Aston says. “Evaluating and re-evaluating is a necessity.”

The priority of safety and security is a common thread that runs among all district staff, school administration, teachers and school security officers. The district and the police are working together on increasing security, re-visiting existing security and looking for new security measures that are cost effective and reliable.

Presently, student identifications are checked upon entering the high school, security escorts are in place and there is increased awareness of perimeter door security. As the high school is completed, more cameras and new features will be added at the main entrance.

The district continues to be proactive, motivated and forward-thinking in their security measures. Aston’s presence, along with the other officers, contributes to maintain a safe and secure educational environment for each student, faculty and staff member in the school district.