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February 15th is School Resource Officer (SRO) Appreciation Day, a special day to show our gratitude towards SROs and the impact they have on our students, schools, and communities. Their many positive contributions include ensuring physical safety, building relationships with students, and educating the entire school community on safety topics and needs.
Below we answer three common questions about SROs in schools. You’ll learn what an SRO is and what roles they have in our communities; how they partner with other staff, like mental health professionals, to keep students safe; and what research says about whether SROs make schools safer.
What is a School Resource Officer and What Are Their Roles in Our Schools?
The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) defines an SRO as “a carefully selected, specifically trained, and properly equipped full-time law enforcement officer with sworn law enforcement authority.” They are trained in school-based law enforcement and emergency response and are typically armed, unless prohibited by law.
“Our job is not merely to make arrests,” Chief Craig Miller, Retired Chief of Police for the Dallas ISD Police Department, stated on an episode of School Safety Today. “[Our job] is to develop relationships with the students.” These relationships can help SROs recognize warning signs and resolve concerns before they escalate into violence or suicidal acts.
SROs are also educators, and of course, law enforcement officers. As educators, they can lead school safety discussions with staff, students, and guardians, as well as help build safety protocols and make sure the school community is thoroughly trained. As law enforcement officers, they bridge the gap between public safety and schools. Contrary to popular belief, SROs do not handle disciplinary issues that should be handled by school staff and teachers. Instead, they focus on helping troubled students avoid entering the juvenile justice system and getting a criminal record.
Should Schools Replace School Resource Officers with Other Resources?
Some schools wonder if they should replace SROs with mental health professionals or other resources, but experts say it’s not one versus the other. “I am an advocate for any type of mental health assistance we can get in [the school] environment,” Mo Canady, Executive Director for NASRO, says. As a former SRO with over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, Mo collaborated with social workers, counselors, nurses, administrators, and anyone else who was responsible for school safety. “Everyone has a role to play,” he explains.
SROs and mental health professionals should work together, especially now as we’ve seen an increase in school violence. “This partnership is critical,” Chief Frank Kitzerow, President of the National Association of School and Campus Police Chiefs, shares. When a student makes a threat, SROs and law enforcement investigate and determine if there should be charges. Mental health professionals focus on the individual student and help law enforcement better understand what challenges the student is facing and where they are on the pathway to violence.
Do School Resource Officers Make Our Schools Safer?
An overwhelming majority of school administrators (nearly 100%) and parents (over 75%) think SROs are valuable resources to keep students safe. The media also regularly highlights stories about SROs helping students, preventing crises, and quickly jumping into action to resolve emergencies.
Evidence also supports that SROs help improve school safety. A 2019 report concluded that schools with SRO programs have numerous benefits, such as:
- Increased safety culture for students and staff
- Increased likelihood that students, especially those with mental health issues, will get the help they need from other resources, like social services and healthcare systems
- Prevention of student injuries and death
- Decrease the likelihood of a student getting a criminal record
Other recent studies have shown that having SROs on campus can lead to a decline in violent incidents, like rape, robbery, and physical attacks.
Protect Your Schools with Raptor
SROs and law enforcement are typically the first line of defense for schools. From keeping unsafe individuals off campus to putting their lives on the line to stop an active shooter, SROs play a critical role in keeping everyone in our schools safe. Raptor is a proud partner of NASRO.