School Resource Officers: Steps to effective school-based law enforcement

October 9, 2013

School Resource Officers: Steps to effective school-based law enforcement (PDF)
Source: National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention

For students and educators to achieve their full potential, safe schools are fundamental. Students who report feeling safe in school are more engaged in class, have higher academic achievement, and have lower rates of absenteeism, truancy, and behavioral issues. Likewise, educators who report feeling safe in school are better able to focus on academics, are more likely to remain in their positions, and are better equipped to teach and support students. Feeling safe in school is intrinsically connected to achieving educational outcomes for students and educators alike.

Many communities seek the help of law enforcement to promote school safety and protect schools from violence and disorder. School Resource Officer (SRO) programs that are implemented and sustained through an organized and comprehensive process can help prevent school-based violence, connect at – risk students to needed services, divert youth from juvenile court, and create safe, secure, and peaceful school environments.

Effective school-based law enforcement programs require more than simply stationing officers in schools. Strong SRO programs are built on careful selection and training of officers, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and a comprehensive agreement between the school and the law enforcement agency that fosters collaboration, communication, and ongoing evaluation.

This brief covers the following:

  • What SROs are and their roles as educators, informal counselors, and law enforcers
  • The potential benefits and pitfalls of school-based law enforcement programs
  • The proactive, collaborative role SROs can play in schools
  • The value of a comprehensive agreement between the school and the law enforcement agency, and of written guidelines clarifying an SRO’s work
  • How to properly select and train SROs
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