March 2018, President’s Message
The role of the School Resource Officer (SRO) has dynamically changed to one of a School Police Officer (SPO). This SPO is expected to continue the role of the original SRO, and also provide quality law enforcement functions. SPO’s duties are to detect crime, track crime, reduce violent and nonviolent conflicts, protect the school’s population, and protect the school’s property. Taking all of these new duties into consideration, training and law enforcement practices are being revamped in order to provide a practical means of reducing school based violence.
The recent attack at Parkland, Florida will change the direction of school policing. Our school community is now concerned with preventing crime, maintaining order, controlling crime, identifying crime trends, resolving problems, mental health and rapid police actions. School police officers have now become first emergency responders to problems or crisis. More specifically, school police officers are multi-tasking emergency customer service responders and operate as a functionary arm of government. A school police officer responds to resolve problems. The ability to maintain order equates to enforcing the law. When there is a determination that an arrest is needed, the arrest becomes a resource to enforce the law. However, the majority of calls the police receive are request for service and not necessarily to resolve a criminal act. According to studies, one third of all calls for police service involve allegation of disorder arising from disputes, public, and private interpersonal matters. Police officers find themselves executing discretion with these situations because there may be no violation of law, minor violations of law, or a misdemeanor not committed in their presence. According to a study of 26, 000 calls for service, the police respond to two percent of the violent crime and seventy six percent of the calls are regarding interpersonal conflicts.
When a school police officer arrives at a call, he or she brings with them the authority to deal with a problem and determine the best course of action to take. The school police are expected to respond and triage a situation. The function of a school police officer is to make a diagnosis, determine best course of action to include alternatives, and administer the first aid to assist the citizen. These situations may require an arrest, use of discretion in a form of a warning, or passing the situation onto an agency that is charged to deal with the problem. In order to provide continuing service to our community, police managers must be able to forecast or anticipate the needs of the community they serve.
In closing, school police managers and leaders need to start developing clear goals, objectives, and strategic planning in order to determine the priorities of the agency and the schools they serve.
Please join me at the 49th Annual Training Conference http://www.nassleo.org/conference49.php to learn more about policing in our schools.
As always, be safe out there
Chief Ian A. Moffett, President
NASSLEO Article For March 2018
By: Timothy L. Mallory, Vice President
Positive relationships enhance school safety, climate
One of the common threads of many school safety incidents is that the students involved did not have a positive relationship with any adult in the building. By engaging students, staff, and parents to build relationships, you can take steps to improve school safety and climate.
“You can look at the discipline data, but to get a good feel about school climate and safety, you should be in the hallways during arrival times, when classes change, and have a presence in the cafeteria,” said Timothy Mallory, Vice President of NASSLEO and Director of Public Safety for Tidewater Community College. “You can find out so much about what’s going on in the building by observing students in the hallways and spending time in the cafeteria when students are socializing.” That helps SROs and administrators get a better view of school climate and the relationships that students have with adults in the building. Mallory identified the following ways to build relationships to improve school climate during his 18 years as a Security Director for several K12 school districts in Virginia.
• Take a big picture view
To build relationships, it’s important to know your students’ backgrounds and interests. For example, students from low-income and high-crime areas. A student may not have the support structures at home, but if you don’t know that information and the student comes to school and acts out, we tend to respond to the behavior instead of looking a little deeper to find out what is causing it. Building positive relationships with students will assist you in identifying students in need. I am not concerned with the student that only has one to two friends, but concerned with the student that has no friends and sits alone every day during lunchtime and not respected by his or her peers.
• Understand the causes of behavior
Ask the building leaders to look more closely at students with high discipline rates. “We took our school security officers and administrators to knock on doors before the school year began to find out what is going on at home. It can be something as simple as not being able to afford a good haircut or the right clothes to wear. Part of it is looking past behavior and finding out the reasons.”
• Get staff on board
Staff engagement should come from the superintendent and building leaders. Ultimately, relationship-building starts during the interview process. For instance, when you’re interviewing SROs to work in the school, just because they’re police officers, that doesn’t mean they have the ability to work in that environment. The successful police officers in schools are involved in school events and are part of the school fabric. Encourage staff to ride the buses on occasion and see where students live. That helps staff understand where the students are coming from and some of their challenges.
• Don’t overlook support staff
Custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers all play critical roles in improving school climate and building relationships with students. They’re probably some of the most important people, but in too many cases, we tend to forget about them. Bus drivers are so important because that’s social time for students. If something is going to happen, the bus drivers have to listen and report because kids are going to talk, and typically they’re oblivious to the bus driver being there.” Empower your support staff, and let them know their importance. For instance, custodians are regularly in the hallways of the school. They build relationships with the entire student body. Teachers may only know a segment of students, but the custodians see all of the kids. Also, cafeteria workers can build relationships with students because they hear and observe students in social settings.
• Engage your community
Develop strong relationships with social services, religious institutions, courts, and the police department to boost their awareness of how you’re creating a positive school climate. For instance, if there are public housing communities, build those relationships with management of the housing communities. Build relationships with the local courts, social services, mental health services and the district attorney. Engage them in regular collaborative meetings so that everybody is on the same page.
• Assess success
Send surveys to students, parents, and staff about school climate on a regular basis. Ask questions about how safe they feel in the building. Ask for their input and suggestions to improve school climate. Address their concerns in a timely manner.
Contact Mallory at NASSLEO.ORG