Abstract: The Role of School Resource Officers (SRO) in School Safety and Violence Prevention (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

626 The Role of School Resource Officers (SRO) in School Safety and Violence Prevention

Friday, June 3, 2016
Pacific M (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Katie Eklund, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Kris Bosworth, PhD, Professor and Smith Endowed Chair in Prevention and Education, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Lauren Meyer, MA, Graduate Assistant, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Increasingly, school safety and violence prevention has been a concern of educators and entire communities.  With the intention of increasing school safety, security measures such as cameras, metal detectors, and environmental changes have been implemented.  Another approach is having law enforcement assigned to schools.  Commonly known as School Resource Officers (SROs), these individuals have become highly visible staff members in many public schools around the country (Finn & McDevit, 2005). Their positions are funded through several sources including the federally funded COPS program, local state initiatives and local law enforcement units. Currently, 68% percent of students ages 12-18 report that there are security guards or police officers in their schools, 70% report the presence of security cameras, and 11% report the use of metal detectors (Robers, Zhang, & Truman, 2012). However, little is known about the effectiveness of such measures.

SROs are called on to serve a multifaceted role, which includes duties such as “law enforcement officer, counselor, teacher, and liaison between law enforcement, schools, families, and the community” (Girouard, 2001, p. 1). While the inclusion of officers within schools is a rapidly growing phenomenon, research is scarce regarding the SROs role in decreasing incidents of school violence, increasing student perceptions of safety and security, and improving school climate outcomes. 

Through the state legislature, Arizona has placed over 100 SRO’s in middle and high schools throughout the state.  The first years of implementation has included mandated officer, police supervisor and school administrator training to help support and positively define the role these officers play in the school and community at-large.  This paper provides an overview of a novel training designed to help transition SROs from a sole focus on law enforcement towards an integrated role as part of a larger school safety team focused on prevention, crisis intervention, and response.  This includes a prevention oriented approach that includes 180 hour of Law-Related Education (LRE) and participation with mental health professionals and administrators on a school safety team that deals with universal, targeted and indicated prevention interventions school wide, as well as with threat assessment and crisis situations.  The integration of the SRO within the school team demonstrates that the SRO contributes to an orderly, purposeful atmosphere, promoting a feeling of safety conducive to teaching and learning.

Additionally, this paper describes differences in school safety efforts and school climate perceptions between SROs, school administrators, and school mental health professionals.  This data will be aggregated to demonstrate how this influences student and staff perceptions of school climate and school safety.  Recommendations for school-based training, interventions, and research will be provided.