By Fargo Police Officer Kyle Ness, School Resource Officer at Woodrow Wilson High School
Did you know school-based law enforcement dates back to the 1950’s in Flint, Michigan? This concept was created to improve relationships between students and law enforcement. During that initial timeframe, officers would visit each school on a part-time basis and attempt to become a regular part of that school’s community. Fast forward to today, and you will find a full-time police officer stationed in each middle school and high school in the Fargo Public School District.
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), a school resource officer (SRO) serves three primary functions; teacher/guest speaker, informal counselor/mentor and law enforcement officer.
SROs are available to teach on a variety of law related topics. For example, each year in our District, SROs teach Smart Choices, Bright Futures to fifth graders. This class talks about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Many SROs also teach classes from an area they specialize in, such as criminal investigations or basic life skills. When an SRO comes into a classroom, they take on the role of a guest speaker. This is a great time for students and teachers to get to know the SRO and improves students’ perceptions of law enforcement.
The staff at a school is made up of a diverse group of people that all have one thing in common: they care about students. An SRO is one of these people. In the school, an SRO can be a resource for students when they, or someone they know, is struggling and in need of assistance. The SRO may know of services available inside or outside of the school where they can direct the students. SROs have an “open door” and are always available if a student needs something or to talk with someone.
Law Enforcement Officer
The most obvious function of having a SRO in the school is school safety. An SRO is readily available to help with medical emergencies or other situations that require a quick response. An SRO is available to enforce and investigate criminal activity in the school and deal with law-related issues. It’s important to understand an SRO is not a disciplinarian of school rules, SROs deal with criminal activity.
“We have to make sure that our officers understand that the way our schoolhouse is policed is far different from the strategies that you use on the street.” – Don Bridges, Head of NASRO