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School Resource Officers: A Summary

What is a School Resource Officer (”SRO”)?

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.


What are the roles of an SRO?

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 potential.


Are SROs armed?

Yes. A school resource officer is a commissioned, sworn law enforcement officer, not a “security guard.”


How many SROs are there in the United States?

Nobody knows how many SROs there are in the U.S., because SROs are not required to register with any national database, nor are police departments required to report how many of their officers work as SROs, nor are school systems required to report how many SROs they use. A 2007 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that there were more than 17,000 SROs deployed in public schools nationwide, but the DOJ has not repeated that question since. According to a March 29, 2018 article in the Washington Post, 42 percent of schools had a resource officer on site in the 2015-2016 school year, 10 percent higher than a decade earlier.


Does the presence of SROs increase the rate of disciplinary actions being handled by the criminal justice system as opposed to the schools?

Carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers who follow 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).


Not to suggest that SROs have a direct correlation with lower arrest rates as that has not been specifically studied, but the opposite also cannot be shown beyond anecdotal reports. Scarsdale Police, in particular have shown great sensitivity to the community in which they operate, often taking no action against students for transgressions committed. The recent lack of police action against inebriated high school students at a house party, despite apparent belligerence on the part of the students clearly shows this. Simply put, police officers have great discretion that can be directed through policy.


*Some information obtained from the National Association of School Resource Officers

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