Reporter: Ellie Mahan
October 6, 2021
After gaining a little over ten years of background in law enforcement, Officer Curtis Rust took on the position as Whitney’s School Resource Officer (SRO). Going on his third year as Whitney’s SRO, Officer Rust has been striving to make the staff members and the students in the district feel safe while also adding a bit of laughter and positivity to the halls of Whitney schools.
“My hope is that I can build up and make kids understand we might be police officers, but we’re still people. We have families, and we put our pants on one leg at a time. They should understand that we’re here to help,” Rust said.
Amy Leech, principal of Whitney High School, said she hopes Officer Rust’s presence on Whitney campuses helps increase student’s respect for law enforcement officers and the people in the community. She also recognizes that students face many difficulties outside of school, and she can see Officer Rust being a positive influence on students as individuals, leading them to make good choices.
“I think these days especially, it’s important for kids to see that police officers are there to help us, and just interactions with law enforcement and seeing that they’re an asset to our community as a whole. That relational piece helps kids prepare for life beyond the walls of the high school,” Leech said.
According to Rust, part of the reason Police Chief Chris Bentley thought he was a good fit for the job was because Bentley thought Rust would work well with young people since he has five children of his own. Rust’s favorite part about being a school resource officer is the positive interactions with both students and staff members.
Leech said, “He is very outgoing, fun, and he gets involved with the kids. He truly builds relationships. He may not even have to be at a school event, but he likes to go and support the kids. In the cafeteria, they joke around together, but they respect him. Even though there is that back and forth banter, they respect him as law enforcement, and he is someone that they go to for advice if they need anything.”
Friday, October 1, Rust gave a surprise performance with the Royelles drill team at Whitney’s homecoming pep rally. He attended practices during homecoming week to learn the dance. He said his only concern was that he would make the drill team look bad with his moves, but he planned to put in his full effort.
A week before the pep rally, Rust said, “I kept teasing Mrs.Durham, one of our coordinators for our Royelles, and I was like ‘you’ve got to get me out there and let me show my moves.’ Mind you, I can’t dance. I’m going to be honest with you, I am far from a dancer. She called my bluff in front of some of the girls, and so now I kind of agreed to do something.”
Another way Rust has collaborated with the students is by overseeing last year’s senior prank and ensuring that the students didn’t take the prank overboard while allowing them to still have fun.
“The kids know that he may joke and have fun, and he may seem like a buddy at times. He is still a police officer, and if there is a need, he is going to be serious when he needs to be. There is a good balance there,” Leech said.
When the school was under a mask mandate, Rust thought that because he couldn’t connect with people with facial expressions, he would work to brighten people’s days in other ways. For example, one particular office staff member is afraid of birds, so in November 2020 Rust got laughs out of the high school staff by arriving at school dressed in an inflatable eagle suit, raising his arms to flap his wings. Then, in December, Rust took out his Elf on the Shelf at his house for his children. He mentioned to his wife that it would be funny to come to school dressed as an elf, and she said she didn’t believe he would do it. To prove her wrong and to bring smiles to students’ faces, he wore an elf costume to each Whitney campus.
“The high school I think gets the biggest kick out of it because they’re still kids. They’re adults, most of them, but they’re still kids at heart, so that is how I try to treat them is that balance of being a kid and being a high schooler. We’ve all been that age before, and luckily for me, I still act like a big kid, so I can relate a little bit,” Rust said.
At the high school, during each passing period, he hid in different places such as next to the Christmas tree, in the library, on top of lockers, on top of a vending machine, and even inside the trophy case. He said the hardest part of that stunt was standing still for five minutes without moving.
“We had kids who were 18 years old who were just waiting to see where he was going to be that next passing period. What I love about him is that he is not worried about what kids think. There is not a tough guy image that he feels like he has to portray,” Leech said, “I think that it helps parents and kids to know that these police officers are human. They are here for us. He just makes it fun.”
Rust said the hard part of being an SRO is maintaining rapport with students while also disciplining them when necessary. When regular police officers respond to calls, oftentimes they may never see the person they arrested again. On the other hand, when a school resource officer has to enforce a rule, the SRO has to see the affected student at school the next day. Rust does his best to help every student and help them work through their issues. He said his parents influenced him by instilling a sense of selflessness in him, and he ultimately went into law enforcement because he wanted to help people.
“If you don’t get into this job with that as your mindset, in my opinion, you’re getting into it for the wrong reasons,” Rust said.
Rust uses his personal experiences with growing up in Dallas to relate to students and what they may be going through. He knows that students have their own personal battles that play a role in how they handle situations at school. He tries to get some perspective on what may be leading them to act out during school hours.
“That’s why the desks are here. When kids initially get in trouble, they put them in here until they have a chance to talk to them about whatever the situation was. I take advantage of that time, and ask them what happened. Some of them don’t want to talk, but eventually they usually open up to me, and we can talk. I always tell them ‘I’m not trying to fix anything. I just want to talk to you. Let’s just have a quick conversation,’” Rust said.
Working to make students and faculty at Whitney ISD feel more safe, SRO Rust and his K9 Rusty patrol the halls of Whitney schools, providing support and smiles. Rust’s latest practical joke was to run a fake campaign for faculty president during the week of student elections, with a campaign catchphrase of “LONGER LUNCHES, SHORTER CLASSES.” Befriend SRO Rust on Facebook to see how he serves the community in the future.