By Brandon Goldner

WOODBURY, NJ (CBS) — A South Jersey school resource officer (SRO) is being recognized nationally for his efforts in bridging the gap between law enforcement and students.

The National Association of School Resource Officers awarded Woodbury City SRO Ryan Alcott its inaugural “Bridge the Gap” award for his work protecting local classrooms and enacting statewide policies.

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“I try to remind myself every single day that my number one job is to protect the kids,” Alcott said. “Not only from an active shooter event but also to protect them from formally entering the juvenile justice system.”

In his first year as an SRO, he was troubled by some of the disciplinary decisions he witnessed.

“Sometimes, there was overreaction to minor misbehavior,” Alcott said. “If a student said the word ‘bomb,’ for example, that student perhaps would be suspended, and nothing would be done beyond that.”

He proposed legislation requiring every New Jersey school to have a threat assessment team, consisting of SROs, administrators and social workers, to evaluate student threats on a case-by-case basis.

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“We all get together and figure out, ‘Does this student need help? Was this just a joke?'” Alcott said. “If he needs help, let’s go to the next step.”

The legislature passed the bill unanimously last month, and it’s now awaiting a signature from Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I was happy for a moment, but I know I’m just getting my foot in the door,” Alcott said. “School safety’s always evolving. I have to work on future legislation to strengthen it.”

In August, Alcott will be holding several active shooter drills to prepare Woodbury police for the school year.

“What I’ve seen with what happened in Uvalde is not the way to respond to an active shooter event,” Alcott said. “When I’m in the school, and I hear the shots, I have to run towards them right away.”

Tyrese Jean Simon, a high school student who’s participating in a week-long law enforcement camp overseen by Alcott, said he liked having SROs at his school.

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“They make everybody feel comfortable at school. It’s not something that scares us,” Simon said. “It’s just good to know we have somebody there to help.”

Brandon Goldner