Police in Schools: Safeguarding America, Building Character
Since the Columbine tragedy on April 20, 1999, one of my professional responsibilities has been safeguarding American schools.
Administrators, teachers, counselors, threat assessment teams, security officials, school board members, community leaders, students, and law enforcement officials, and in particular, school resource officers (SRO), have attended my presentations nationwide.
During my presentations, I have always stressed that the SRO represents one of the most important school violence prevention, character education, and community policing initiatives.
The importance of the SRO has also been highlighted in my board certified security vulnerability assessments for school districts.
Recent SRO Scandal: An Anomaly
These are challenging times for police–community relations due to controversies that have included Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, and South Carolina.
The Oct. 26 incident of an SRO representing the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina exacerbated negative police–community publicity.
In graphic video’s taken by students, the SRO is viewed slamming a female high school student to the floor from her desk and then dragging her across the room.
This dehumanizing act, as a response to an ordinary discipline problem, rightfully led to the immediate termination of the SRO by the sheriff.
The mission of the Sheriff’s Department of “enriching community trust through high standards of excellence” was enhanced by holding the SRO accountable for his actions.
Nevertheless, this brutality breached the sacred trust between an SRO and student entrusted to his protection and cast unfavorable light on the outstanding efforts of SRO’s nationwide.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 46,000 full-time and 36,000 part-time SRO’s in America. These professionals conduct countless acts of respect, and deserve accountability from those who violate their noble mission.
The sheriff proved that there is a way to do the right thing with transparency, responsibility, and integrity. There are ethical policing principles that must stand against any misguided blue wall of silence, or denial that tarnishes the shield.
The immediate termination of this SRO honored the dignity of SRO values and respected the principles of community policing. America’s police must be ethical protectors and continually cultivate honor, courtesy, and respect.
The SRO: Protect and Educate
According to the document, “To Protect & Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools,” published by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), these are some activities to which the SRO is assigned:
- Meeting with principals each morning to exchange information gathered from parents, community members, and social media to detect potential spillover of threats, drug activity, and other behavior onto campus.
- Meeting with campus and community social workers to understand when and how at home issues may be motivating a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with school staff to ensure effective and supportive responses.
- Listening to students’ concerns about bullying by other students and taking those problems to school administrators to help develop solutions.
- Providing counseling and referrals when sex-abuse victims turn to them for help because of the relationship of trust officers have built with the students.
- Coordinating additional law enforcement resources to assist with large public events on school campuses such as athletic events, dances, and community functions.
- Working with school administrators to keep the school’s Emergency Management Plan updated.
- Scheduling emergency drills in conjunction with other local agencies.
- Conducting intervention programs for the purpose of counseling victims and friends of victims of campus violence.
- Coordinating and funding programs for students-in-need that provide rides to school, school uniforms, school lunches, and supplies for home, food, and holiday gifts.
- Coordinating a variety of community service activities with students that include spending time with the elderly at local nursing homes, running soup kitchens for the needy, hosting dances with student groups, and weekend field trips.
In my article titled “America’s 21st Century Teacher: Security, Character, Pedagogy,” for the Aug. 28, 2015, edition of Epoch Times, I stressed that education is the heart of America’s future.
When our teachers and police collaborate to enhance security, character, and the preventive system of education, we will inspire our youth to carry the torch of America’s decency.
The SRO is a priceless component of violence prevention and character education for our schools. This initiative affords the opportunity not only for violence prevention and education but also promotes a positive image of law enforcement to our nation’s youth.
Our schools should do everything possible to have an SRO program and law enforcement should be fully committed with the most qualified, trained, certified, and dedicated professionals available.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.