Who is Lafayette Harvey? A Look Behind the Glasses
Patch sat down and spoke with the unofficial face of Old Mill High.
The unofficial face of Old Mill high school sits in a humble office donning a pair of aviator shades that would make Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise proud, his Eddie Murray-style mustache matching the character of the glasses.
As a security staff person for Old Mill, Lafayette Harvey is the first and last person seen by visitors, and he knows the effect his glasses can have.
“They do two things. One, when you need to stare at somebody, you can do it without them knowing. And two, if you feel the need to intimidate someone, you can get in front of them and they can’t see your eyes,” he said. “It’s intimidating.”
The tactic, an old police trick according to Harvey, is useful when performing his role as a screener of school visitors, but it would be a massive understatement to say he uses them just for the job.
“He wears them everywhere,” said his daughter and Old Mill senior, Bria Harvey. “He walked down my sister’s wedding with his glasses on. During the wedding, the whole thing.”
The 59-year old laughs at the memory of walking his daughter down the aisle in the mirror-like shades. “I hide behind these sunglasses,” he said.
They’re so much a part of who he is, Harvey said the only time he doesn’t wear them is if he doesn’t want to be recognized.
As intimidating as his look may be, Harvey has found that his stolid persona and trooper-style shades don’t shoo students away. Behind the glasses lies a personality that continues to connect with teenagers and invites them to open up.
Not in the job description
“A lot of kids talk to me,” said Harvey. “I find out about fights, hear about gang activity. Kids talk to me about problems they’re having that they can’t talk to their parents about.”
The former policeman credits his informal role as the reason students open up.
“Because I’m not an administrator, a lot of kids feel like it’s easier to talk to me. That definitely wasn’t part of my job description,” he said, while admitting to enjoying that aspect of job.
Harvey started working at Old Mill four years ago in 2007 after retiring as a 31-year veteran of the Anne Arundel County police department. However, his retirement was short-lived.
“I retired for about two weeks, but I realized it wasn’t for me and I started looking for something to do,” Harvey said. After walking his daughter Bria into the school one day, he was offered the job screening visitors, and the retired sergeant has been connecting with people ever since.
In the brief time students spend by his office area, Harvey said he’s discussed family issues with students who simply need someone to listen, ranging from substance abuse in parents to romance problems with other students.
“Kids just seem to open up to me,” he said.
Sometimes though, students try to abuse his casual and kind spirit when making up excuses for tardiness, Harvey said. “One kid told me he had a meeting with the president. Another girl said her grandmother had died. It was the sixth time she said that.”
On an average day, Harvey checks in 250 adults and about 200 tardy students for the high school.
His kind demeanor and warm greetings bring a smile to many who swing by his small desk, but the job isn’t all roses and rainbows.
Serve and protect
During his four-year stint with the school, Harvey has stopped 22 sex offenders from entering the school, 15 men and seven women, he said. “If I have to, I will get physical with them. I have to be the bearer of bad news sometimes.”
Using a machine and software that scans drivers licenses, Harvey is able to identify harmful individuals or those who are not allowed to visit the school.
Harvey is no stranger to dealing with conflict. Out of a 10-hour workday as a policeman, about seven hours were spent in the field, he said. He added that he draws similarities between his role as an officer and his current position as a security staff member for Old Mill.
“Police get the greatest amount of enjoyment from helping people, and pretty much, that is what I do here,” he said. “I keep people out who shouldn’t be here and I figure I’m making it a little safer.”
While there are similarities in the jobs, Harvey admits things can get a little slow compared to his time in law enforcement.
He admitted to falling out of his office chair last year when he fell asleep in the middle of the day. “That’s why he wears those sunglasses,” said a fellow colleague in jest. “He’s usually sleeping.”
A sunny future
“He’ll probably stop working a year or two after I graduate,” said Bria Harvey.
Her father confirmed the notion, and said, “I want to move to Florida. It’s just a question of when.”
The retired officer’s desire to move could be motivated by his love for NASCAR. In Daytona, the 59-year old attended the Richard Petty Driving School and topped out at around 170 miles per hour.
However, it could be more likely that a move to the sunshine state would finally justify his love for his sunglasses.
“I’ve got about seven pairs, three in my car and some at home,” said Harvey.
“When I die, you could look in the casket and I’ll probably have the glasses on.”