A boy with autism was having a meltdown on his first day at West View Middle School.
School Resource Officer Julio Ortiz, of the Morristown Police Department, knew what he needed do and took action in the form of a protective hug.
Ortiz was doing a walkthrough at West View Middle School on Monday when he noticed Kadin Templin struggling.
“At that moment I was taking my walkthrough,” Ortiz recalled. “At that time, I was outside the building Kadin was sitting on the ground and was emotional. I went over to see what was going on and to see what I could do. It was his first day, he seemed to be a little stressed out. I asked what I could do to make him feel at home.”
Ortiz just did what was natural, to assure Kadin, an 11-year-old sixth grader, that everything would be OK.
“As an SRO, I normally stop and make a visit with those with special needs,” he said. “I have a soft spot for those with special needs.”
Ortiz has served the Morristown Police Department for seven years. He was a patrolman for four years before taking the School Resource Officer’s position three years ago.
He is responsible for SRO duties for West View and Lincoln Heights middle schools.
Christina Swartz, Kadin’s mother, explained Kadin’s diagnosis and the fact that he was starting his first day of middle school.
“His teacher, Summer Moore, met him for the first time last week,” Swartz said. “Where he is autistic, he connected with his teacher.”
The class was taking a tour of the school when Moore stopped to talk to another teacher.
When Kadin was in the care of other teachers and lost eye contact with Moore, he had a meltdown in the middle of the hallway.
That’s when Ortiz arrived and held the distraught boy in a warm embrace.
“Officer Ortiz ended up walking up when Kadin was crying and helped to calm him down,” Swartz said. “He was in the right place at the right time. In that moment, Officer Ortiz realized that Kadin was going to be special to him.”
While Ortiz held Kadin, school custodian Teresa Dougherty, also known as “Mama T,” took a picture.
“Kadin told me that he made two best friends today, Officer Ortiz and Mama T,” Swartz said. “Once Kadin makes a friend, they are a lifelong friend.”
Morristown Police Chief Roger Overholt praised Ortiz for his actions.
“We are proud of officer Ortiz and all of our school resource officers who are dedicated to ensuring that our children have the safest environment possible in which to learn,” Overholt said.
Christina explained that Kadin has a rare genetic disorder that has required him to miss school and to have two dozen surgeries since he was six months old.
His 25th surgery is scheduled for Aug. 19 at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville.
“I was worried about Kadin starting middle school because of the disorder,” she said. “Going to Vanderbilt is a whole new process, since the other surgeries were done at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.”
Due to his illness, Christina, a single mother, is unable to work a job as she needs to keep up with Kadin’s appointments.
“He gets made fun of because of his age and autism,” she said. “Even as a mom, I get frustrated. It took compassion to get Kadin to calm down and for Officer Ortiz to get him to get up.”