In 2015 a viral video of South Carolina school resource officer (SRO) Ben Fields’ slamming a student across the classroom caused a public outrage. During the same year in Lynn, an SRO arrested a student with special needs.
“While the [school resource officer] was a support person for the student, the district should realize that involving an SRO in non-criminal matters comes with an added risk to the student because the SRO’s primary responsibility is law enforcement,” the Office of Civil Rights wrote on July 30 regarding the Lynn incident.
All these instances have begged the same question from the public: Will these officers provide protection, or will they threaten student safety?
Viral videos of rare but vicious incidents may cause horrors, but SROs have had plenty of heroics. In May, Illinois SRO Mark Dallas received much praise for chasing and pursuing a gunman out of a high school.
“Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved,” Dixon Police Chief Steven Howell told the New York Times in May. “We are forever indebted to him for his service and his bravery.”
Majority of the SROs’ works are not the dramatic highs and lows that the public sees; it’s the small details that are often overseen: preparing the students for real situations by doing drills, ensuring that safety systems are ready, or even their even their presence in itself.
Still, with viral stories often being the one that impacts social view of the SROs, the public relationship could use some work. The recently reported Revere Police Youth Academy may benefit this relationship.
“The foundation of the program is making good decisions and developing positive relationships between youth and law enforcement,” Capt. Amy O’Hara told the Journal.
As the new school year approaches, safety will remain as one of the top concerns for parents and schools alike. There will be few like the school resource officer who will help get that done.