Building Collaborative, Relationship-Based School Resource Officer Programs

 In Administrator Resources, Advocacy, Climate, Districts, Leadership Development, Legal, Professional Development Opportunities

By Chase LyDay, Chief of Police at Avon School Police Department

Carefully-selected, specifically-trained School Resource Officers (SROs) are uniquely suited to be one of the most impactful professionals in a school district.  The goal of School Resource Officer programs is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community by investing in healthy, positive relationships with students, staff, families and the community.  Healthy programs champion the NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers) “Triad Model” of school-based policing which categorizes the role of a School Resource Officer in three interrelated concepts: mentor, educator, law enforcement officer.  These roles are listed in order of importance as they provide an appropriate framework for School Resource Officers to prioritize their work with students.  They underscore what is most valuable to SRO programs.

Questions for Reflection – “Do you have a School Resource Officer who has been carefully-selected and specifically-trained to work with kids or do you have a police officer who has been generally trained in law enforcement?  Do you have the articulated goals of a School Resource Officer program or is your program a school police model?”

Even though the goals of a School Resource Officer program align well with the strategy of most principals, there is a significant amount of calibration that must occur between school administrators and SROs in their building to effectively implement a program.  There is often conflict and misunderstanding of each other’s roles that result in frustration.  How do we get on the same page to provide the safest learning environments possible for our staff and students?  Two key words will be interwoven through every key concept espoused in this article: relationships and collaboration.

An effective School Resource Officer program simply can’t exist without a healthy relationship between building administrators and the officers.  As is the case in any relationship, one must do the work of building trust and respect to ensure positive outcomes of the partnership.  This is particularly true within the relationship of a building administrator and the SRO.  When a principal calls for a SRO, they expect a person to show up who is good at working with kids and knows the intricacies of working with students in an educational setting.  When a School Resource Officer is called to help, they want to be confident the administrator is calling for a reason that justifies law enforcement intervention.  Here are some practical ways to align your efforts:

  • Clarify your roles before the school year begins.  Discuss safety plans and protocols with your SRO(s) and administrators to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role in safety initiatives.
  • Collaborate with your SRO on safety strategies.  SROs have an immense amount of school safety resources available to them including best practices recommendations, new products and a network of professionals who are experts in this field.  You have a greater understanding of educational environments and needs.  Work together!
  • Communicate frequently.  Over-communicate safety protocols, important information about students, expectations and goals.  Have intentional times set to discuss safety with your SRO.
  • Collect meaningful data.  Most SRO programs only collect arrest data.  Ask your SRO to aggregate data on calls for service any time he/she is called to help, criminal court diversions when the SRO could have arrested a student but chose not to, referred a student to mental health supports, attended a community event.  You will see the value SROs add very quickly with data that most don’t collect!

Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe.  As administrators and School Resource Officers develop good relationships through intentional collaboration, much safer environments for students are built that produce much greater outcomes.  When greater outcomes for our kids is the main goal, we can move forward better together.

Questions for reflection – Have your School Resource Officers attended the NASRO Basic Course to be certified?  Have you attended the Indiana School Safety Specialist Academy?  Great training produces great professionals!

Chase Lyday President; Indiana School Resource Officers Chief of Police; Avon Community School Corporation


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