Sandra Beasley and Deverin Dillon, BENTE 2419, are School Security Officers (SSO’s) who have spent their careers positively impacting the lives of young people at the Rochester City School District (RCSD). Recently, their work gained widespread public attention and recognition when they risked their lives in an active shooter situation at their school-Franklin High School.
Sandra and Deverin are proud graduates of the Rochester City School District. They both believe that relationship building with the students and staff is the #1 priority at Franklin.
Sandra graduated from Franklin in 1988 and started at RCSD 15 years ago, always holding the title of SSO. After working in a number of schools, she “came home” to work at Franklin in 2020. She spends a lot of time building relationships with students. Students need to be “talked to, loved and respected. Adults want respect. Kids want that too.” When a student has a bad day, she listens to them and comforts them. She brings in food, winter coats, clothing and shoes to students who need it. In return, students hug her and proudly show off wearing the items she gave them and sometimes they even get emotional, just so grateful for her kindness. Sandra’s 15-year-old daughter now happily donates items of clothing, knowing that students at Franklin will appreciate them. Sandra also helps students attain extra credit they need and has “tough love” conversations with them when they need it. Some students even call her their second mom, while she calls all of her students “my babies.” The affection she feels for her students emanates from her. “Kids just need love and someone to talk to.”
Deverin – DL, as he is affectionately known, graduated from East High School and has worked for RCSD since 2010. He is now Lead SSO. DL was trained by veteran SSO’s to always be professional, and he takes that responsibility very seriously. “We come to school every day not knowing what’s going to happen to our babies. A lot of our babies are hurting and have mental health issues going on.” DL says that SSO’s go above and beyond their job title. We act as “uncles, fathers, parents. We counsel.” His two absolute favorite school days are prom and graduation. He loves seeing his students all dressed up in their best attire for prom. He feels pride and considers it a “blessing” to watch students who’ve struggled graduate high school. Excited families will come up to him at graduation and as he tries to introduce himself will let him know no introduction is needed. He is DL “school dad” and families share with him how much he has impacted their student’s lives. DL says that SSO’s are first responders and deserve respect. “We run towards problems. We don’t run away.”
The running towards problems was directly evidenced on the morning of January 5 when a gunman chased a student to the front doors of Franklin, trapping three students as they crouched in the doorway. The gunman hovered over the terrified students. Bullets entered the front door of the school. Sandra and DL heard the gunshots and hurriedly unlocked and opened the front doors. They grabbed students and pulled them inside. DL and Sandra called 911 and started lockout procedures. DL ran outside, despite the gunfire, prepared to perform CPR on a wounded child. It was truly a miracle that no one was injured that day.
Because of their heroic actions, the Rochester City Council recognized both Sandra and DL at their February 21 city council meeting. City Council President Miguel Melendez, joined by the members of City Council, thanked DL and Sandra for their “quick thinking and courageous actions which ensured the safety of students.” Sandra and DL gave speeches addressing how much they love their jobs and how they are committed to their work. DL stated “When your kids come into our building, we treat your kids like our kids. I’d do it again if I had to and thank you and I appreciate all of this”. Sandra followed “I understand that they’re your babies, but when they come into that building, when they come into Franklin, they’re our babies and we’re not going to let anything happen to our babies”. In response they received an emotional standing ovation from the audience.
Sandra and DL have talked through and processed what happened that day with each other and their team at Franklin. DL and Sandra see themselves as family, call each other brother and sister and support each other every day in every way. For their own families, this event has been harder to deal with. On the day of the shooting, Sandra’s daughter tearfully pointed out that it could have been her mom hit by a stray bullet. Sandra held her daughter close, rocked her and told her she was alive because of the “grace of God.” Her daughter is still staying close to Sandra. Sandra will catch her daughter standing next to her smiling and her daughter will say to her “do you know how proud of you I am?”
When asked what improvements they want to see, Sandra and DL focus on “their babies” first. They want to see more support services for students including mental health counseling and life skills programming. They feel students are really struggling right now. They would also like to see additional student services. Sandra recounts how Franklin used to have classes on cooking, sewing and developing business skills, which all helped develop students’ confidence. Sandra would love to teach the students a class on etiquette for job interviews and other life skills. DL would like to see more job training programs in school like cosmetology and the trades to help students see a future for themselves.
Also, they would like to see more funds spent on security, including increased pay rates in order to recruit and retain highly qualified SSO’s. The current starting pay rate for SSO’s is $19.44 per hour, with many open positions across the district. They also would like to see other security measures implemented, including working cameras around schools and alarms on doors.
Our union, our community, our students and their families are truly grateful for the heroic actions of Sandra and Deverin who risked their lives to save students. The students at Franklin and across the district know that whatever happens in their lives, no matter what they are struggling with, there are SSO’s like Sandra and DL always ready to support them and always ready to protect “their babies.”