RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When you watch dismissal at Apex High School, you wonder how things aren't more chaotic.
Buses and cars crisscross Laura Duncan Road.
Parents are waiting for their kids by the side of the road to avoid carpool. One of the ways the chaos gets avoided is by the school resource officer.
"The SRO who is there loves these kids," said Sergeant Ashley Boyd. "They love them like their own. None of us wants to see anything bad happen to any of these kids."
Boyd is in charge of all of the resource officers in Apex. He himself used to be one at Salem and Lufkin Middle Schools. There are two at Apex High and nine in total throughout Apex schools.
"We always need to stay vigilant, keep up our training, and make sure not just the SROs are familiar with the schools but the officers who are working patrols with the schools as well," Boyd said.
All this week ABC11 is exploring school safety and how it intersects with the mental health and well-being of students.
It's clear SROs play a crucial role in that ecosystem.
"It is challenging but it also probably one of the most rewarding jobs in the whole agency," said Robert Carey, captain of the Cary Police Department who manages the team of SROs in Cary. "You invest in students, you're the first face they see in the morning, you can tell when something is not right with them."
Carey was a resource officer himself for 12 years.
"You're there to encourage them, you're at sporting events, you're at their plays, you get to educate and have lunch with them," he said.
A 2021 Duke public policy masters paper shows 79% of schools in the state have SROs assigned to them on at least a rotating basis. Apex has 9. Cary has 14.
"We wear many hats," said Sgt. Boyd. "Whether it's law enforcement, the counselor hat, the friend hat. You want to make them comfortable to where you can have those hard conversations."
Officers said despite the vast number of threats this semester at Wake County schools, they take each and every one of them seriously.
"I think it's a really good idea that we have resource officers just in case something happens so we feel safe," said Malak Dechir, a freshman at Apex High School.