What is a school resource officer and what do they really do? These questions are prevalent as communities and school districts determine whether a police presence and not simply additional firearm presence inside their schools is necessary. Incidents involving mass shootings and active shooter incidents have created a concern for the safety of children in school and at school-sponsored events, but, does having a police officer or two on school property decrease the likeliness of those incidents? Some community members believe the presence of police officers in the schools exacerbates the “school to prison pipeline” by criminalizing what would have been normal disciplinary issues. On the other hand, some community members believe the presence of police officers enhance the students understanding of the criminal justice system; thus decreasing negative interactions with law enforcement professionals.
The National Association of School Resource Officers provides specialized school resource officer training that describes the duties of a school resource officer as a teacher, informal counselor and lastly law enforcement officer. Many school police departments focus on the safety and security of campuses and students by working with school administrators to create an environment that is safe and allows students to focus on the educational process. In addition, school police departments develop and implement prevention programs that address bullying, cyber-bullying, conflict resolution, suicide, gang participation and internet safety to name a few.
What is your school police department doing? It is up to each school police department to show the public the value they provide to their schools, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and communities other than being a highly trained officer with a gun. Those departments must engage with those who do not see their value and change the narrative.