Guest Post: In Defense of School Resource Officers

Bismarck police Officer Preston McKay, the school resource officer at Century High School, stands in the hallway in May 2018 as the class final bell rings and students leave at the end of the day. Mike McCleary, Bismarck Tribune

This guest post was submitted by Josh Brown, a school resource officer working for the Bismarck Police Department and president of the North Dakota Association of School Resource Officers.

As the President of the North Dakota Association of School Resource Officers (NDASRO), I feel it is my duty to the schools and first responder agencies I represent to respond to Mr. Port’s column from October 14, “Suicide is a Bigger Threat than School Shootings for ND Kids.”

First, you will not find anyone in my organization that will disagree with your column’s title. In terms of probability, our students will be faced with a myriad of crisis situations before they will ever encounter an active shooter situation. Even with unprecedented numbers of shootings occurring across our nation in recent years, our schools are still the safest place for children to be during the day…even safer than their own homes. The SRO is an important piece of the comprehensive team and approach our nation’s schools have taken to ensure schools are the safe havens that parents and community stakeholders expect.

A SRO’s job is not just to stop a school shooting. Our job is to work as part of the team that has our students’ overall wellbeing in mind every single day.

Second, I would hope that we can all agree that it takes a comprehensive team and approach to ensure the social, emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing of a student. This is heavy work and not something that one professional or one industry can tackle on their own. Our schools know that it takes counselors, psychologists, student wellness facilitators, teachers, administrators, school support staff, SROs, collaborations with outside agencies, and a school full of caring and trusting adults to look after our children’s wellbeing.

Third, it is important to clarify the role of a SRO in a school system. In most of our ND police departments, the SRO is a specialty position that interested candidates must apply for and pass through an interview panel before being chosen; not just any police officer can become a SRO. The successful SRO candidate receives specialized school-related training from both the national level and their local district level. While security and safety are major elements of the role of a SRO, they also serve equal roles as teachers and informal counselors. In direct response to concerns about mental health, SROs are often the only individuals in a school that have the ability to take immediate action if a person poses imminent danger to themselves, versus most school personnel that can only refer students to outside resources. One of our program’s key goals is prevention, which is comprehensive of all situations that could befall our students.

Finally, if you review federal statistics from the Dept. of Homeland Security and the FBI, you will find a significant decrease in the number of student arrests at schools with a SRO presence.

A SRO’s job is not just to stop a school shooting. Our job is to work as part of the team that has our students’ overall wellbeing in mind every single day.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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