School Resource Officers (SROs) serve as comprehensive resources in the schools to which they are assigned. The Center for Safer Schools' research-derived definition of an SRO is: a certified law enforcement officer who is permanently assigned to provide coverage to a school or a set of schools.
The SRO is specifically trained to perform three roles:
- Law enforcement officer
- Law-related counselor
- Law-related education teacher
The SRO is not necessarily a DARE officer (although many have received such training), security guard, or officer who has been placed temporarily in a school in response to a crisis situation; but rather acts as a comprehensive resource for the school.
The following information is from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO):
What is a school resource officer?
A school resource officer, by federal definition, is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department or agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools. NASRO recommends that agencies select officers carefully for SRO assignments (see question below) and that officers receive at least 40 hours of specialized training in school policing before being assigned.
What are appropriate roles of school resource officers?
The goals of well-founded SRO programs include providing safe learning environments in our nation’s schools, providing valuable resources to school staff members, fostering positive relationships with youth, developing strategies to resolve problems affecting youth and protecting all students, so that they can reach their fullest potentials. NASRO considers it a best practice to use a “triad concept” to define the three main roles of school resource officers: educator (i.e. guest lecturer), informal counselor/mentor, and law enforcement officer.
How should school resource officers be selected?
School police work is not for every law enforcement officer. Officers considered for the job should have at least three years of law enforcement experience. They should have a strong desire to develop positive relationships with youth on a daily basis. Their service records should contain no disciplinary actions or complaints involving youth. They should volunteer for the position; no officer who doesn’t desire an SRO position should be assigned.
Do school resource officers contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline?
No. Carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers who follow NASRO’s best practices do not arrest students for disciplinary issues that would be handled by teachers and/or administrators if the SROs were not there. On the contrary, SROs help troubled students avoid involvement with the juvenile justice system. In fact, wide acceptance of NASRO best practices is one reason that the rates of juvenile arrests throughout the U.S. fell during a period when the proliferation of SROs increased (see To Protect and Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools).
Resources and Best Practices
- To Protect & Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools
- A Comparison of Averted and Completed School Attacks from the Police Foundation Averted School Violence Database
- Juvenile Arrests, 2018 (Published June 2020)
- Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety
- Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills
Available trainings through the National Association of School Resource Officers
An SRO program places law enforcement officers in schools with the goal of creating and maintaining safe, secure and orderly learning environments for students, teachers and staff. With such a program, the officer represents much more than "the cop in the shop." An SRO program reflects a community's desire to ensure that its schools are safe, secure and orderly. SROs represent a proactive strategy designed to bring prevention and intervention into the schools.