Across the Aragon campus, students have noticed the presence of a uniformed police officer patrolling the grounds nearly every day. Beginning in June of this year, Officer Steve Bennett has served as Aragon’s new School Resource Officer.
He serves as a school-based law enforcement officer, providing school-based policing, safety and security assistance, and checkups of the school and its grounds.
“I’m here to help the students, administration and teachers. I’m involved in discipline and truancy, so I work with Mr. Mahood and Mr. Valmonte,” says Bennett. “I would become more involved [with] crimes that occur across campus like fights and vandalism. Sometimes if students are feeling depressed and the student safety advocate needs me to step in, I can get outside resources.”
Bennett checks up on the well-being of students, but he also gives presentations on various topics. Recently, he gave a presentation at the freshman assembly about staying safe on the internet, and in Aragon health classes, he provides talks about harassment, sexual assault, alcohol, and drugs from a police officer’s perspective.
Bennett also teaches a sixth grade class at Borel Middle School called GREAT, or Gang Resistance Education and Training.
“That’s my only commitment. I’ll be here for all the special events, if there’s a night football game, homecoming dance, prom, all those things,” Bennett says. “Hopefully they’ll just see me as another teacher, adult, or resource on campus. Anyone’s welcome to stop by my office, room 224. They can reach out to me in any way. They can come up to me, and I have a mailbox in the office.”
“Officer Bennett does everything a normal San Mateo police officer does. Plus, he acts as a resource for you if you have any questions about procedures or if students need a welfare check,” says Aragon Assistant Principal Joe Mahood.
The School Resource Officer position is not unique to Aragon. Across the city of San Mateo, there are three full time officers in total, assigned to one middle school and one high school each.
“Having School Resource Officers is unfortunately popular right now because of school shootings, bombings, and things like that,” Bennett says. “School Resource Officers are very common, it’s just new to Aragon.”
Bennett is also an Aragon alum. “Mr. Mahood was my bio teacher. I played water polo. I made a lot of really good friends here,” he says. “I’d say three out of the four guys I had at my wedding were friends I made at Aragon. I really liked the teachers. About a dozen of the teachers and staff are still here.”
“The thing that’s changed the most [about the school] is just the physical [aspect]. It’s much nicer and newer,” he says. “It seems like the atmosphere is the same. The students all seem to get along, the teachers are very engaged, the teachers are very interested in what the students are doing, there are a ton of clubs, sports, extracurricular activities, and it seems like most students are able to find something interesting.”
Before his police work, Bennett was an elementary school teacher.
“I taught in Mexico for a year,” he says. “I speak Spanish. That’s actually where I did my student teaching. I went to school in San Luis Obispo, in Cal Poly, and there was a program there where you could do basically an exchange [with a teacher from Mexico.]”
Bennett has been a police officer for 12 years including eight years on patrol and three in detective work.
“I worked on special victims cases, like the ones you see on TV,” he says. “I worked on sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, things like that.”
On switching jobs, Bennett explains, “I guess when I was young maybe I wanted to be a police officer, but my parents were both teachers and a lot of [people in] my family are teachers, so I thought maybe that was what I was supposed to do. So I told my mom that I’d try being a police officer for two years, and then I’d go back to teaching, but I never did.”
Bennett says, “This is the best of all worlds for me right now. I’m back in the school around teenagers and I get to be a part of the Aragon community again.”