School Resource Officer Role is Evolving
The role of the SRO has been evolving for some time. NASRO found that SROs do not contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline. On the contrary, they do not arrest students for disciplinary actions that would normally be handled by the staff if the SRO were not there. Their focus is to help troubled students avoid the juvenile justice system altogether. It was determined that when SRO prevalence rose, the rate of juvenile arrests declined.
NASRO has an approach called the triad concept. This concept divides the SRO’s responsibilities into three areas: Informal Counselor, Law Enforcement, and Educator. In May of 2018, Texas Governor Greg Abbott commissioned a panel discussion over three days that uncovered a gap in the effectiveness of school counselors.
The panel concluded that licensed counselors are spending most of their time on academic counseling, leaving them little to no time to attend to mental health counseling.
NASRO’s approach is in line with Governor Abbott’s recent action plan, which recommends prioritizing the importance of the mental and behavioral health of students. One way of doing that is freeing up the licensed counselors to focus on those needs. The SRO, while not a licensed mental health counselor, could certainly help fill the gap as the Informal Counselor.
Creative Ideas as the Informal Counselor
An SRO’s assigned campus will dictate the SRO’s specific activities and programs. In a robust program, these wide-ranging activities could include:
- Meeting with principals each morning to exchange information gathered from parents, community members, and social media to detect potential spillover of threats, drug activity, and other behavior onto campus.
- Meeting with campus and community social workers to understand when and how at-home issues may be motivating a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with school staff to ensure effective and supportive responses.
- Carrying two radios, one for school and one for the local law enforcement department, to monitor for and respond to issues on campus, or to be a familiar face if one of their students is involved in an incident off campus.
- Listening to students’ concerns about bullying by other students and taking those problems to school administrators to help develop solutions.
- Providing counseling and referrals when sex-abuse victims turn to them for help because of the relationship of trust officers have built with the students.
- Coordinating additional law enforcement resources to assist with large public events on school campuses, such as athletic events, dances, and community functions.
- Working with school administrators to keep the school’s emergency management plan updated.
- Scheduling and participating in emergency drills in conjunction with other local agencies.
- Coordinating a crime scene investigator to speak to biology classes.
- Instructing students on technology awareness, domestic violence, traffic-stop education, and bullying.
- Developing intervention, skills-development, and healthy lifestyle programs for elementary and middle school students so they are prepared to succeed in high school.
- Conducting home visits to contact parents of at-risk students and assist those families.
- During extended school-day programs, assisting students with their homework, playing basketball, and sharing dinner together.
- Creating and conducting a distracted driving course for students.
- Hosting summer activities. One idea is “bike rodeos” for students, that include bicycles donated by local merchants and the police department.
- Implementing programs like “Doing the Right Thing”, where educators select one student each month for lunch with the SRO and a photo in the local newspaper in recognition of their leadership skills.
Ideas sourced from NASRO.
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