Phil Steigleder, who is returning to patrol duty, has been one more friend for many kids on campus
Mail Tribune

South Medford High School will have a new face on campus when school reopens after the Christmas break.

But instead of carrying textbooks, he'll be toting a gun.

Medford police officer Scott Clauson will replace officer Phil Steigleder as the school resource officer at South Medford High and McLoughlin Middle schools.

Clauson, 31, has worked in the police department's gang and street drugs (GSD) unit for the past year. But his experience there should mesh well with his new responsibilities at South and McLoughlin. School resource officers serve warrants and "work informants," among other responsibilities with the GSD unit when school is out for the summer, Steigleder said.

Clauson received the GSD assignment after taking some time off from active patrol duty in 2000. Clauson was shot in the leg while responding to a call in December 1999. Surgery and physical therapy repaired his right femur, which was shattered in eight places by a bullet. Clauson has been with Medford Police Department for six years.

Clauson said the experience of working in schools should be an eye-opener, because he is scheduled to give classes on a range of topics, including narcotics, domestic violence and date rape. He also hopes to be a link between schools and Jackson County Juvenile Services, he said.

School resource officers have been serving North and South Medford high schools and McLoughlin and Hedrick middle schools since 1995. They also spend some of their time in elementary schools.

In addition, community service officers - who don't carry weapons - patrol neighborhoods around the high schools.

Steigleder is leaving his post at South after a six-year stint because he wants to get back into patrol, he said. But he'll still be keeping an eye on kids in his new West Medford patrol beat that includes South High. He said he will encourage kids to flag him down if they have any problems.

"It's one thing to walk around campus in a police uniform, and it's another thing to walk around the campus and be approachable," said Kevin Campbell, assistant principal at South.

Having police on campus during school hours is a "tremendous aid," Campbell said. In his time as SRO, Steigleder was instrumental in developing safety plans for the school, Campbell said. The Medford officer also spoke to history students about the U.S. Constitution and applied the principles of radar in math classes.

"Out of anything I've ever done, this has been the most rewarding program," Steigleder said.

Steigleder also started the "Freedom Roads" program at South in which a selected group of students visit prisoners sentenced to life in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

But perhaps more than anything, Steigleder has been one more friend for many kids on campus. For parents, he has been a wealth of information on community assistance for children and families, Campbell said.

"It's not always about being the hammer," Campbell said of the SRO post. "It's about helping people."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail