Most times when students head to lunch at school, they're not expecting to sit down next to a police officer, but the Riverside Local School District is working to make it the norm.
This school year, the district launched the "Lunch for Law Enforcement" program, where officers are invited into any building within the district for a free lunch with the students.
School leaders said the program was created to help enhance the law enforcement presence inside the district's buildings and to receive feedback from visiting officers about safety measures.
"I think for the police officers, sitting down with an elementary student just sheds a whole new light on life perspective and that can be really great too," Madison Avenue Elementary principal Tracy Shantery said. "Kids bring a really neat perspective about many things, so when you sit down on their level it's just really enjoyable."
During News 5's visit to Madison Ave. Elementary, Sheriff Dan Dunlap was making his rounds in the school's cafeteria, talking to students in third through fifth grade.
His conversations were simple and brief, however, school leaders realize they will have a much deeper impact at the end of the day.
“Having them sitting there, sharing a meal with them is really exciting and shows that they’re real people just like them," Shantery said.
Sheriff Dunlap called his interactions with the students invaluable.
“All young people are vulnerable. We want to make sure they feel comfortable with law enforcement and they make good decisions, " he said. "We want to make sure that they understand the decisions you make have consequences."
More than once, he reminded students to call and rely on law enforcement officers when they need help.
"Lunch for Law Enforcement" welcomes local officers as well as deputies from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.