School Officers: Who They Are; What They Do
Mentor. Confidante. First-responder. Enforcer. School resource officers juggle those and numerous other roles in their complex jobs working in public schools.
When they are in the national spotlight, they are often cast as heroes, like the SRO in Dixon, Ill., whom authorities credited last month with thwarting a mass shooting, or villains, like the officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who stayed outside the building while a former student shot and killed 17 people inside.
Related Story: Ready for a Shooter? 1 in 5 School Police Say No
This specialized law enforcement profession began growing after the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. In 2015-16, 42 percent of public schools reported having a school resource officer present at least once per week, according to federal data. In the wake of two mass school shootings this year, the profession is headed into a new period of expansion as states and local jurisdictions hustle to hire and train more school police.
To better understand the people working in this profession and how they see their roles, the Education Week Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey of nearly 400 school resource officers.
Below are some of the topline results. The full report is available here.
School police officers’ on-the-job experiences vary. While most are assigned to a single school, many work at multiple campuses. The vast majority of them carry firearms and handcuffs.
Most school officers worked with youth before their K-12 job, the survey found, though fewer have training in areas such as the effects of trauma and how the teen brain works.
White men dominate the school police ranks, while federal data show that nonwhite students comprise the majority of public school student enrollment.
SOURCE: Education Week Research Center
Data-driven journalism projects in Education Week and on edweek.org are supported in part by a grant from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
Vol. 37, Issue 34, Page 13