School security officer Roger Caron was patrolling the corridors of Pascack Hills High School in New Jersey when he noticed something concerning. A female student was acting very strangely indeed. And as a result, he knew he had to act fast in order to save a life.
Caron works as a police officer in the borough of Montvale, New Jersey. By April 2018 the cop had enjoyed an impressive three decades in his law enforcement career. But in recent years, his role had changed into something different to the average officer on patrol.
After retiring from a nearby police department, Caron took up a position at Pascack Hills High School. As an in-house officer at the educational establishment, it was his job to stalk the corridors to keep students safe. He would also act as a kind of security guy – protecting the school’s attendees from any threats.
Pascack Hills is one of two high schools in the Montvale district. And in the educational year which ran from 2015 to 2016 it had 841 youngsters on its books. At that time, there were just under 70 full-time teachers present at the school.
Pascack Hills High School first opened its doors to students back in 1965. At the time, it boasted state-of-the-art technologies. These included foldable walls to accommodate groups of different sizes and a computer system that enabled students to individually select their classes. Both these advancements were made possible by a $12,000 donation to the Montvale district from the Ford Foundation.
Throughout its 50-year history, the school has continued to move with the times. In 2006 Pascack Hills opened an additional gym to accommodate its students’ recreational needs. Since then a new entrance and science wing have also been added to the building.
In recent years the school has continued to be an advocate for the use of technology in education. It became one of the first schools in its area to give each of its student a laptop. The device could be used both in class and at home. In the school year which commenced in 2007 Pascack Hills upgraded further by introducing Apple MacBooks as standard.
The school’s efforts earned it some high ranking places in education polls. In 2014 Pascack Hills came in at number seven in New Jersey Monthly’s run-down of that state’s best public high schools. And in 2011 The Washington Post named the school as New Jersey’s 62nd finest.
The Montvale district in which Pascack Hills High School lies decided to employ in-school police patrols in September 2017. They used retired cops for the role. These people were trained in school safety, CPR and first aid, while still having full police powers.
And Montvale isn’t the only school to take such precautions. In fact, according to one analysis by think tank Urban Institute, 68 percent of high school students in America have a policeman or woman as part of the staff at their school.
Those in favor of a police presence in schools believe law enforcement will keep youngsters safe. There has been an average of ten school shootings annually since 1999 in the United States, according to the Washington Post. So advocates for the police occupancy of schools believe that protecting the lives of students is a top priority.
However, having police patrols at schools is not without its controversies. Critics question how much the measure actually prevents crime. Meanwhile, some worry students are criminalized for behavioral problems that would be better tackled somewhere other than a police station.
But despite mixed opinions from the public, school-based policing is becoming more popular. And following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in 2018 – which saw 17 killed – President Donald Trump voiced his support for introducing officers into all American schools.
Only time will tell just how effective in-school law enforcement is in protecting U.S. high school students. But for many at Pascack Hills High School, their police officer Caron had already proved his worth. And it was all to do with his reaction to a terrifying incident that occurred in April 2018.
Caron’s first three years at the high school were seemingly a lot less demanding than his previous 34 with the Woodcliff Lake Police Department. However, this all changed one regular Tuesday afternoon. That’s because, on this day, he noticed a student behaving strangely.
The youngster in question was Sarah Bazzini. The then 18-year-old was much like any other teenager her age. She was studying for her senior year in order to fulfill her childhood dream of one day becoming a police officer herself.
However, it wasn’t Bazzini’s aspirations to be a cop that led her into the path of Officer Caron. It all began one lunchtime when she was making her way back to class. Seemingly in a hurry to return to her lessons, the teen wolfed down the last of her food en route.
Soon after, Bazzini caught the attention of Caron. The police officer had grown concerned after noticing the teen’s staggered movements and the blue hue of her lips. However, nothing could have prepared him for what was about to unfold.
“I noticed Sarah didn’t seem right,” Caron told CBS New York, recalling the worrying incident in 2018. “She was stumbling a bit, moving very quickly.” The cop was still unsure what was going on. But then Bazzini did something that brought the realization of what was happening crashing down.
“The closer I got I realized her color was off,” Caron explained in his interview with CBS New York. “[Bazzini] ran up to me and started giving me the choke signal. At that point, I knew exactly what was wrong.”
It turned out Bazzini was struggling to breathe after a french fry from her lunch had blocked her airways. “I knew it was lodged in my throat,” she later told CBS New York. And worryingly she had been unable to budge it herself. Bazzini added, “My drink, which I had in my hand, couldn’t get it down.”
For what must have been an agonizingly long few seconds, Bazzini could feel herself losing consciousness. She claimed her vision became blurry and her body began to tingle. However, that’s when she saw Officer Caron coming towards her.
All of the staff and students at Pascack Hills High School undergo first aid training. But it was Caron who now needed to put these life-saving techniques into action. Maybe it was his years as a police officer, or perhaps it was sheer adrenaline, but the cop somehow managed to keep calm and take charge.
As Caron approached Bazzini he noticed that her entire face had become a worrying shade of blue. Though she was unable to speak, the teen was clutching her neck. As a result, the policeman was able to determine that student was choking.
Being unable to talk is an extremely common symptom of choking. As such, victims should indicate that they are having difficulty breathing by placing their two hands on their throat. Furthermore, they should attempt to grab the notice of someone who may be able to help.
Recalling what happened next, in April 2018 Caron told WABC, “I asked her if she was choking. She said yes, so I immediately… knew I had to do something.” As a result, Caron decided he would need to carry out the Heimlich maneuver on Bazzini in order to save her life.
The Heimlich maneuver emerged in 1974 when it was detailed by American doctor Henry Heimlich. The first aid practice uses abdominal thrusts to remove obstructions in the windpipe. And since its introduction, the technique has become one of the principal methods used to deal with choking.
In order to perform the Heimlich maneuver, would-be rescuers must stand behind the person choking. Then, they clasp their hands on the bottom of the patient’s diaphragm. Using thrusts, the rescuer compresses the lungs to build pressure on the lodged matter and therefore move it.
The American Red Cross advises that the Heimlich maneuver should only be attempted as a last resort. First, rescuers should encourage the patient to dislodge the obstruction by coughing. After that, five slaps to the back should be given. It is only when these two techniques have failed that abdominal thrusts should be carried out.
It is not known if Caron was aware of such advice. However, footage from the school’s surveillance cameras show the cop going straight in with the Heimlich maneuver. With each abdominal thrust, Caron hoists Bazzini off the ground, until he finally manages to eject the french fry.
Describing what went down in that dramatic moment, Caron revealed, “I began the Heimlich maneuver. I gave her approximately five abdominal thrusts. At that time she began to cry and gasp for air.” Amazingly, Caron’s quick-thinking had saved Bazzini’s life.
Following her ordeal, Bazzini visited her school nurse for a check-up. She was a little bit sore and bruised from the thrusts and slightly shaken by the experience. But apart from that, she was found to be completely healthy. And for that, she had Caron to thank.
If Caron had not been patrolling the corridors that afternoon, who knows what may have become of Bazzini. “I couldn’t make it downstairs to the guard’s desk and I couldn’t make it to a classroom. So again, thank God Officer Caron was there to save me,” she told News 12 in 2018.
It may come as no surprise then that Bazzini later hailed Caron as her “hero” in an interview with CBS New York. And following their encounter, the pair have struck up a friendship. “There’s such a special bond with him now,” the teenager explained.
It wasn’t just Bazzini who sung the praises of her rescuer. When word of Caron’s noble actions reached Mayor of Montvale Mike Ghassali, he dedicated a post to the policeman on his Facebook page. “Excellent job by hero Special Law Enforcement Officer III Roger Caron at Pascack Hills High School,” Ghassali wrote in April 2018.
And Mayor Ghassali’s glowing post didn’t go unnoticed by his hundreds of followers. It clocked up an impressive 94 reactions on Facebook. Furthermore, it even attracted a comment from Bazzini herself, who wrote that she was “feeling very blessed and thankful.”
Caron himself downplayed claims he’d done anything out of the ordinary. He was, however, happy to talk to his new admirer Bazzini about the life of a cop. And thanks to her encounter with Caron, the teen was now more determined than ever to become a police officer.
The opportunity to inspire Bazzini to follow his path into law enforcement had particular poignancy to Caron. “She had asked me several questions about how to get involved in becoming a police officer,” he told WABC. “It was very special to know that maybe I helped a future cop.”
So not only did Caron save Bazzini’s life, he may have also changed the course of it forever. The student’s life-long dream of becoming a cop is now being cultivated by her friendship with a real-life police officer. And now her goal is more clear than ever. “I want to do what he does,” she said. “Save lives every day.”
In order to turn her dreams into reality, Bazzini plans to study criminal justice at college. And while Caron was proud to have been part of the wannabe police officer’s journey, he was more pleased just to have kept her alive. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know you can help somebody,” he told CBS New York. “That’s what I took away from this.”