You may have heard of the term “SRO” and you might even have one or more at your school, but do you know the extent of their role in your school safety plan? School resource officers (SROs) are sworn law-enforcement officers who work, either full or part time, in school settings. They have been specially trained to work with children. One organization that offers this training to foster both positive relationships with both students and staff is The National Association of School Resource Officers, the world’s leader in school-based policing. SROs have arrest powers and they have traditionally been more commonly hired in secondary schools than in elementary schools. SRO duties are evolving as many are now directly involved with mentoring children and helping to ease anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, when SROs are needed most, we are seeing a shortage as there is a nationwide law enforcement shortage. Many districts are fighting for increased funding to have more SROs at their schools.
Your school safety plan should be focused on several areas—physical safety from violent threats, mental health safety, and health protection from COVID-19. SROs are valuable, dependable resources that can help with all of these safety topics and more. They are the fuel that powers your safety plan and keeps everything running smoothly.
Let’s look at 5 parts your SROs play in powering your school’s safety plan:
Educators In many places, SROs patrol the halls but they also work in classrooms as instructors on topics that relate to policing. Some topics they may teach about include policing as a career, alcohol and drug awareness, crime prevention, and more. As students become more familiar with these topics, they become more comfortable with law enforcement in general.
Mentors SROs are well-equipped with communication, teaching and mentoring skills. These skills are especially helpful when applied to students currently in crisis dealing with anxiety due to mask-wearing, staying socially distant, and reuniting with teachers and peers. Having SROs in schools that students can trust gives the students other adults that they can talk to about their concerns.
Heroes The trust built between SROs and students establishes a positive image of law enforcement for them. It’s uplifting to hear stories like the one that went viral on social media about Bob Curtin, an SRO in Ohio, who breakdances with the students in his middle school. He is not afraid to act silly in order to foster a friendship with the students and to show them that police officers are human beings just like them.
Community Liaison Having SROs in schools makes sense because that is where the community comes together. Parents may reach out to SROs about problems in the community. Business owners might question SROs about student behavior in their stores. The possibilities are endless, and you can use this fact as a tool to keeping your school safe by keeping the surrounding neighborhood safe as well.
Enforcers SROs are also law enforcers who are ready to confront violent behaviors of disruptive students when necessary. Nearly all SROs are armed (about 91 percent, according to federal data), and most carry other restraints like handcuffs as well. While this fact may be intimidating to some, most people agree that schools need someone that can save lives if something happens. Enforcing rules and protecting the school is one part of the picture of how SROs can keep your school safe, and SROs will always try to address a student’s concerning behaviors before having to resort to an arrest, for example.
SROs are an asset to any school safety plan. Traditionally you may think of them as patrolling hallways and combatting violent behavior, but your best bet is to utilize them to stop mental health issues before they start. Just seeing a friendly face in a school building helps children to feel safe, calm, and protected. The proactive approach to mental health and high standards for enforcing rules to prevent violent behaviors align with CrisisGo’s mission of creating a safe learning environment for all. We salute all SROs, especially today on National School Resource Officer Appreciation Day.