Ken Greenleaf is headed back to school, but he isn't packing a new spiral notebook or worrying where to sit at lunch.

He's the guy dressed in blue, wearing a badge - and armed with a gun.In response to school shootings across the nation, rural states like Maine have asked police departments to detail an officer to spend the day at school.

They aren't necessarily patrolling the parking lot and hallways - they're also advising students, interacting with parents and acting as a deterrent.

"We are trying to get ahead of the curve," said Westbrook Police Chief Steven Roberts. "This is prevention rather than response. We've had no crime problems and we went to keep it this way."

After fatal shootings at schools in Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Springfield, Ore.; and a school dance in Edinboro, Pa., teachers, parents and students in rural places realized they aren't immune to what was once perceived as simply an inner-city problem.

"Kids are being killed every day in the inner city," said Richard Verdugo, coordinator of the National Education Association's Safe Schools Program. "But once it went into rural and suburban areas, suddenly we had a school safety problem."

Since the shootings, school administrators have been pressed to come up with strategies to deter violence and prepare for worst-case scenarios.

In Georgia, officials set up a toll-free safety hotline that students can call to provide anonymous tips on threats in the public school system.

And in Marshall County, Ky., backpacks and large book bags are forbidden because they are convenient hiding places for weapons.

An officer patrolling school is only one way to reduce the possibility of violence, Verdugo said. Other strategies include crisis management plans and workshops with parents, authorities and social service agencies.

At least 40 states have full-time police patrolmen - dubbed "school resource officers" - in high schools and middle schools, according to Dr. Pam Riley, at the Center for the Prevention of School Violence in Raleigh, N.C.

In Maine, Greenleaf will be the first full-time school resource officer at South Portland High School. Schools in the Portland suburbs of Scarborough and Westbrook will begin similar plans.

"I'm here as a police officer to become part of the school and to be proactive as well as reactive," said Greenleaf. "People who think that they are going to come to the school and cause problems may think twice if there's a policeman here."