A resource officer isn’t just an “armed guard” at a door, but someone who builds relationships with students, helps resolve conflicts, and serves as a deterrent to crime and violence, says Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) in Hoover, Ala.
While gun attacks on a school are rare, he points to the example of an SRO in California who ended such an attack by shooting and disabling a student who fired a shotgun through a school window.
In the 1970s there were fewer than 100 school police officers nationwide, according to Northeastern University criminology researchers. But with concerns about gang violence, school shootings, and terrorism in the past several decades, their presence has grown exponentially. NASRO estimates there are now about 10,000 SROs, the vast majority of them armed. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants have helped fund these officers.
While SRO programs have proliferated, juvenile arrest records have declined, says Mr. Canady, so he believes concerns about a national school-to-prison pipeline are overblown. (See NASRO’s report on this issue, “To Protect and Educate” at http://www.nasro.org/)
While Canady agrees students are mistreated by police occasionally, he says those examples reflect a tendency by a few urban areas to allow police into schools to operate without proper regard for how to best serve an educational setting.