Back to School: Who Are School Resource Officers (SROs)?

It’s almost time for students and teachers to head back to school for another year of learning. If you’ve ever noticed police officers stationed at your child’s school for security, you may have wondered who they are and what they do on a daily basis.

School Resource Officers (SROs) are “sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools” according to the United States Department of Justice. So, what does that mean? Here’s what your School Resource Officers do to protect the students in your school district.

The History of SROs

The earliest recorded School Resource Officer served in Flint, Michigan in 1953. In the 1960s, plainclothes officers were placed in elementary and middle schools around the country with the goal to foster a positive relationship between the local police department and local kids. This remains one of the core goals of the SRO program today.

Beginning in the 1970s, SROs shifted focus from strictly mentorship to crime prevention in schools. During the 1980s and 90s, SROs led crime prevention programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.).

Near the end of the 1990s, the Department of Justice hired over 6,500 School Resource Officers to serve in a new $750 million grant program called Cops in School. Over the course of 30 years, the number of schools with SROs on campus rose from 1% to 40%.

Today, uniformed officers on the school campus operating marked police cars are responsible for safety and security on school property. They also work to educate students and build relationships with them as mentors.

Responsibilities of SROs

According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, an SRO 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.” They have three main responsibilities that define their role within a school.

  1. Educate – SROs often serve as guest lecturers to teach students about the criminal justice system, drug prevention, and other relevant topics.
  2. Mentor – SROs are informal counselors. Students should feel safe and comfortable talking to them or reporting a crime to them.
  3. Enforce – SROs are the first line of defense against crime in schools. This is especially relevant in protecting students from school shootings.

How to Thank Your SROs

If you want to let your school’s SROs know you appreciate them keeping your kids safe at school, here are a few ways to say “thank you.”

  • Write them a note.

A handwritten card is always a good way to let someone know you’re grateful for their hard work! Have your kids write their own messages and sign their names in the card as well.

  • Bake them a treat.

Next time you share homemade cookies with the teachers at your school, save a few for your SRO. Your kids can pitch in to help with the baking and deliver the bag of goodies to their SRO.

  • Give them a gift card.

A treat like coffee or ice cream is sure to make anyone smile! This is also a great option if you don’t have time to bake, or if your school has restrictions for outside food.

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