Since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 87 school shootings in America. As these become more prevalent, school districts are looking to put more safety policies in place and hire new leaders to direct these policies. School Resource Officers (SROs), who are sworn law enforcement officers, are common in many school districts to provide security and crime prevention services. In most cases, SROs are trained to serve three critical roles – teacher, mentor and Public Safety Officer.
Teacher: Instilling Safety Policies
It is important that students, parents and the community feel comfortable approaching the SRO with safety concerns. By devoting time in the classroom, the SRO will build positive relationships with students and develop age-appropriate awareness on important issues relevant to their safety and security – such as fire and safety behaviors, basic first aid, resolving conflicts in peaceful and productive ways, dealing with bullying and, for the older students, avoiding substance abuse. Not only does the SRO teach students about various safety measures, he or she also leads in-service training for school staff, provides presentations and information on crime trends, and delivers training on crime prevention, intervention, and crisis response including active shooter and workplace violence situations.
Mentor: Making Safety Approachable
In the mentor role, the SRO responds to students seeking advice, just as students seek guidance from other role models and mentors at home and in the classroom. Working during regular school hours and various after-school sponsored sports and activities, students become more familiar with the SRO. As the SRO builds trust and relationships with students, he or she gains the ability to guide students through stressful situations and has the ability to identify at-risk situations early, and uncover opportunities for intervention before issues escalate.
Public Safety Officer: Prioritizing Safety
The SRO’s knowledge and understanding of Public Safety Department policies and procedures provides valuable insight regarding community resources and crime trends in order to assist the development of effective prevention and intervention strategies. Additionally, the SRO, as a sworn law enforcement officer, has undergone training and certification as a firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, and in some cases, a paramedic.
Outcome: A Safe, Secure and Orderly Learning Environment
The SRO’s presence, knowledge and relationships help deter criminality and trespassing and greatly reduce critical response times when and if incidents occur.