By Michael Cuneo –
Brandon Weathersby didn’t grow up with aspirations of becoming a police officer. Before becoming the Student Resource Officer (SRO) at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, he got introduced to law enforcement, but not by choice.
When he was 14 years old, Weathersby was mad at a teacher in his California middle school, so he decided to key his car. He ended up confessing to the incident, which landed him in jail, something he remembers every day.
“I wasn’t doing the right thing. I was on the wrong track, hanging around with the wrong people,” he said as he pointed to the arrest report he has hanging in his office.
“That’s something to remind me about [where I used to be] and also to show kids that I’ve been in your shoes and done stupid stuff,” he said.
The incident that landed him in jail at just 14-years-old was a result of frustration at school, something he didn’t always know how to control.
“I got mad at [a teacher]. He said he was going to fail the whole class, so I was like, you know what, I’m gonna take my anger out, and I did the stupid thing and keyed his car,” he said.
The arrest illuminated to Weathersby what his future could hold, and he didn’t like it. A neighbor who also happened to be a police officer heard about the incident and took the opportunity to mentor the adolescent, explaining that his arrest was an opportunity to learn from.
“He told me it wasn’t the end all be all. He told me to move forward and try and move on from my mistake.” he said.
Fast-forward 11 months, and he was back at school, this time excelling and even winning the principles award.
“I won the principles award the same year I was arrested. It’s weird to see that process,” he said.
As the California native grew older, he knew he wanted to do something with law enforcement, first working as a campus security aid at a California middle school close to where he grew up.
Although there is a paucity of evidence regarding students’ involvement in gangs at a national level, a California study found that around 8.4% of students in grades 7, 9 and 11 consider themselves part of a gang.
In the school Weathersby worked at, gang involvement was far from novel. He tried to persuade one student to leave the lifestyle behind, which opened his eyes to the power of influence.
“I had a student that I was trying to mentor, and he just didn’t want to hear it. He was caught up in the gang life.” he said.
“I coached flag football, and I was able to get him to come out and play football and mentor him. With the gangs out there, you can’t just stop. It’s either you get beat out, or they kill you. I was trying to change his mindset.”
That simple yet difficult mentorship changed that young student’s mindset, eventually getting him out of the gang life. The moment showed Weathersby that his influence was paramount and catapulted him into a career in law enforcement.
When he was 31-years-old, Weathersby moved to Georgia, putting himself through the police academy and eventually getting hired with the Peachtree City Police Department.
But before he started in his role at McIntosh, he worked at a high school in Fairburn, Georgia.
His time in Fairburn was somewhat overwhelming. Despite seeing plenty of gang activity in California schools, Weathersby was shocked by the extreme nature of his new job. As a result, he decided to move to a different school.
At the start of the 2021 school year, he began his work as SRO at McIntosh. He says the difference between McIntosh and the previous schools he had worked at was immediately noticeable.
“The kids were friendly,” he said. At previous schools, he was the enemy, often dealing with students who didn’t want to see him, let alone talk to him.
“My first impression [of McIntosh] was like ‘wow, this is a great school.’” he said.
Perhaps what makes the 34-year-old police officer most equipped to serve as an SRO is the philosophy that he uses with students every day. Instead of viewing himself as someone who enforces the rules, he uses his experience to connect with students.
“I think the approach for being an SRO is you have to acknowledge that you might have done some stupid stuff when you were a kid, so I just try and be personable with kids. You might have messed up, but there’s a way that you can try to mentor them to get on the right path.” he said.
Weathersby says his perspective is not limited to schools or students. When he is outside of the school environment, making traffic stops or responding to an incident, he stresses the importance of treating everyone with respect.
“If I’m on the street pulling someone over, I try to be personable with everyone I encounter. I try to change people’s minds because there are certain people I interact with who thank me because they have never had that type of experience with a police officer before.” he said.
Despite his feelings at the time, Weathersby says he is thankful for his experience with law enforcement at a young age. What could have cemented a life of resentment and a path of destruction transformed him into the person he is today.
“I was 14-years-old when [I got arrested], but a police officer changed my life. He made me think differently. You can mess up, but you can also learn from your mistake and then move on and tell the next generation about it.” he said.
Moving forward, Weathersby hopes to one day become a defensive line coach at McIntosh, something he says will allow him to continue to mentor the students and pursue his passion for football.
Whatever his role is, Weathersby’s desire to connect with students and make an impact is pronounced. His own experience as an adolescent showed him that a positive influence can create drastic changes in a child’s life, something he says he wants to do as much as possible.