For safer schools, resource officers focus on building trust

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file)
A candlelight vigil on Feb. 15, 2018 for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Dear Readers,

With many schools across the country already in session or about to start, educators are busy setting priorities for the year. Even before the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend, the safety of students was top among them.
Judging by this week’s news that the sale of bulletproof backpacks skyrocketed, it’s also on the minds of parents. Data was also released last month that suggests that online bullying has ticked up.
Among the less flashy, but important, approaches to school safety is that of students having trusted adults to turn to with concerns. Some districts are adapting the role of school resource officers to help with that.
That idea came up earlier this year at the national meeting of the Education Writers Association. On one panel, Akil Hamm, the chief of police for Baltimore City Public Schools, described how the city’s approach has changed in recent years. The SROs are thought of as positive role models, being assigned to schools where they themselves attended, for example, and taking on mentoring roles.
“When you do that, kids come to us. They tell us, ‘Hey, so-and-so has a gun.’ ‘There’s going to be a fight at this place, at this time.’ ‘This person is posting stuff on social media,’” Mr. Hamm said. “When you have a relationship with kids and they trust you, they want to tell you.”
Elsewhere, Congress is reportedly looking into new school safety measures in the wake of the recent shootings, and districts are continuing to refine their approaches as the academic year kicks off. We will be keeping an eye on the developments.

Kim Campbell, culture and education editor 

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Why We Wrote This

School resource officers are increasingly seen as positive role models, being assigned to schools where they themselves attended, for example, and taking on mentoring roles.

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