When his name was called to walk across the stage and receive his long-awaited high school diploma, Holliston High School 2011 graduate Matt Yovicsin jokingly turned around with his wrists behind his back to School Resource Officer David Gatchell as if he was about to be arrested. Gatchell had no reason to handcuff the clever graduate so he laughed off the joke and, instead of arresting him, handed Yovicsin his diploma with a smile.
Gatchell, who resides on a farm in Franklin with his wife, four children, ducks, goats, chickens, and dog, has been building strong relationships with students, such as Yovicsin, while working as a School Resource Officer at Holliston High School for the past 3 years, with 23 years experience as a police officer.
Gatchell is often seen around the school in places such as the cafeteria, hallways, or office with sunglasses propped up on top of his head, a plain Holliston Police Department t-shirt, and a belt holding is badge, gun, flashlight, and walkie-talkie.
“I didn’t even want to be a police officer when I got out of high school,” Gatchell, who has a degree in computers, said. “One day my father said they were giving a test to become a police officer so I took the test and that’s how I started.”
Principal Michael Cournoyer says that Gatchell is “the best School Resource Officer [he] has ever worked with.” Cournoyer, who is not Gatchell’s direct boss, says that “without a School Resource Officer, you’re cleaning up a lot of messes, but with a School Resource Officer, we can do prevention and act proactively.”
Being the School Resource Officer, Gatchell has to play the role of the “bad cop” in a lot of situations which does not create a favorable image for him. The students made clever t-shirts referring to Gatchell’s sneakiness that read “Gatchell on the Prowl.”
When asked about these shirts, Gatchell said, “I heard it was the best selling shirt they have ever had, and my wife has one.” Gatchell actually liked the shirts and said he “thought it was funny.”
As a School Resource Officer, Gatchell says that the hardest part of his job is arresting kids and giving them a police record that will stay with them forever. After students of HHS were caught dealing marijuana on school property, a felony in Massachusetts, Gatchell said, “I do lose sleep over things like this, believe it or not; I wake up a 2 or 3 in the morning because of this.”
Gatchell knows that “a lot of kids here think [he’s] just here to jam them up,” but many students throughout the school see past Gatchell’s badge. Gatchell said, “I’d just like to have an image of a guy who does his job and will help a student out if they need it. I respect the kids here and I just expect the same back from them.”
Gatchell enjoys working in the school because he gets to relate to kids and try to keep them out of trouble to steer them in the right direction. Whether it’s waiting around after school to talk to any students who need help, playing a role in a movie for a Communications class project, or helping kids deal with their speeding tickets, Gatchell always goes the extra mile for his students.
Senior Malcolm Navarro plays basketball with Gatchell after school every once in a while and is just one example of a student who sees past Gatchell’s uniform. Navarro said that Gatchell “is a good guy” and “when it comes to the law, he definitely tries to help kids out.”
“The best part of this job is things like helping kids out with their projects,” Gatchell said. Gatchell is seen a lot of times around school joking around with a student named Cullen. When asked what one of his favorite things about this job is, Gatchell said, “Cullen just sitting next to me shooting the breeze. I’d go all day long with that stuff.”
Gatchell said that the most important message for kids to understand “is that almost every kid is going to make a mistake at least once in their life and that they key is to not keep making bad decisions, but at some point to make a good decision that will put them back on the right path. Nobody’s going to fault anyone for making a mistake, but it’s how that person reacts to the mistake that people are going to judge them on.”