Looking to the Future: Trends for 2014 and Beyond

Protecting Our Children at School

It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. As predicted, the Sandy Hook massacre has had a profound impact on school safety and will continue to do so for years to come. As we all know, there were a variety of reactions in the wake of this tragedy. As the dust has begun to settle, I believe that we are beginning to see most districts doing their best to take a common-sense approach to school safety and security. While the discussion regarding issues such as gun control and mental illness will no doubt continue to be debated across our country, I would suggest that those of us in the field of school security continue to look at practical school safety strategies that can be implemented in a reasonable period of time.

Protecting Our Children at School

PHOTO COURTESY OF EDUCATIONGOVGE

First, placing an officer in a school is not the only solution to safety and security. A safe school is the result of a collaborative effort between multiple agencies and individuals. Every school should have a well-written and well-practiced plan that involves; school administration, teachers, staff, parents, students, counselors, school nurses, law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel — just to name a few.

Secondly, NASRO does not advocate for simply placing an armed guard in a school, nor do we agree with the general idea of arming teachers. We do, however, recognize the benefit of a properly trained and well-selected school-based police officer. This officer must be the right person for the job, and it is critical that they are trained in the ways to properly function in a school environment.

The presence of school resource officers in schools has become an important part of the duty to protect children on campus. Parents and local officials in communities around the world enjoy an effective relationship with local police as part of a school safety plan.

Statistically speaking, the effectiveness of school resource officers is firmly established. For example, in America, school crime is down: incidences of school-associated deaths, violence, nonfatal victimizations and theft have all diminished since local police began partnering with school officials. Once schools are made safe, the campuses tend to stay safe. Even juvenile arrests go down, falling nearly 50 percent during the period of expansion of School Resource Officer (SRO) programs.

Speaking as a practical matter, the presence of local police on campus is essential. The specialized knowledge of the law, local and national crime trends and safety threats, people and places in the community, and the local juvenilejustice system combine to make police critical members of schools’ policymaking teams.

In order to fully realize the benefits of the presence of local police, the officers must be trained properly. Officers’ law-enforcement knowledge and skills combine with specialized SRO training for their duties in the education setting. This training focuses on the special nature of school campuses, student needs and characteristics, and the educational and custodial interests of school personnel. SROs, as a result, possess a skill set unique among both law enforcement and education personnel that enables SROs to protect the community and the campus while supporting the educational mission. In addition to traditional lawenforcement tasks, SROs’ daily activities can include a wide range of supportive activities and programs.

Trained and committed police officers contribute to the safe-schools team by ensuring a safe and secure campus, educating students about law-related topics and mentoring students as counselors and role models.

Over the last 23 years, The National Association of School Resource Officers has become the world leader in school based policing.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Mo Canady is the executive director of NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers.)

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