School Resource Officer Program
As defined in legislation, a School Resource Officer (SRO) is a commissioned law enforcement officer in the state of Washington with sworn authority to make arrests, deployed in community-oriented policing, and assigned by the employing police department or sheriff's office to work in schools to address crime and disorder problems, gangs, and drug activities affecting or occurring in or around K-12 schools.
SROs should focus on keeping students out of the criminal justice system when possible and should not be used to attempt to impose criminal sanctions in matters that are more appropriately handled within the educational system.
Regarding SROs, the intent of 2SHB 1216 (2019–20) is to create, for those districts that choose to have a school resource officer program, statewide consistency for the minimum training requirements that SROs must receive and ensure that there is a clear agreement between the school district and local law enforcement agency in order to help establish effective partnerships that protect the health and safety of all students.
A school district which chooses to have a school resource officer program and the local law enforcement agency providing the SRO(s) must annually review and adopt a memorandum of agreement. The review must involve parents, students, and community members. The agreement must incorporate the following elements:
- Confirmation that every school resource officer has received training on 12 mandated topic areas;
- A clear statement regarding school resource officer duties and responsibilities related to student behavior and discipline including:
- Prohibition of a school resource officer from becoming involved in formal school discipline situations that are the responsibility of school administrators;
- Acknowledgement of the role of a school resource officer as a teacher, informal counselor, and law enforcement officer;
- Recognition that a trained school resource officer knows when to informally interact with students to reinforce school rules and when to enforce the law;
- School district policy and procedures that clarify the circumstances under which teachers and school administrators may ask an officer to intervene with a student;
- Annual collection and reporting of data regarding calls for law enforcement service and the outcome of each call, including student arrest and referral for prosecution. Data must be disaggregated by school, offense type, race, gender, age, and students who have an individualized education program or 504 plan;
- A process for families to file complaints with the school and local law enforcement agency related to school resource officers and a process for investigating and responding to complaints;
Compliance with these requirements must be met by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
RCW 28A.320.124 states that school districts which have a school resource officer program must have a district policy and procedure for teachers that clarify the circumstances under which teachers and school administrators may ask an officer to intervene with a student;
Districts must annually review and adopt an agreement with the local law enforcement agency using a process that involves parents, students, and community members. The template can also be used to guide SRO procedural development.
Training Requirements, Suggestions & Resources
For statewide consistency around minimum, mandatory training requirements, the legislation specifies that school resource officers must receive training in the following 12 topic areas:
- Constitutional and civil rights of children in schools, including state law governing search and interrogation of youth in schools;
- Child and adolescent development;
- Trauma-informed approaches to working with youth;
- Recognizing and responding to youth mental health issues;
- Educational rights of students with disabilities, the relationship of disability to behavior, and best practices for interacting with students with disabilities;
- Collateral consequences of arrest, referral for prosecution, and court involvement;
- Resources available in the community that serve as alternatives to arrest and prosecution and pathways for youth to access services without court or criminal justice involvement;
- Local and national disparities in the use of force and arrests of children;
- De-escalation techniques when working with youth or groups of youth;
- State law regarding restraint and isolation in schools, including RCW 28A.600.485;
- Bias free policing and cultural competency, including best practices for interacting with students from particular backgrounds, including English learners, LGBTQ, and immigrants;
- The federal family educational rights and privacy act, FERPA.
The suggestions listed here acknowledge that all law enforcement officers have been trained. In addition, many current SROs have received additional, specific trainings through their local law enforcement agencies, state and other law enforcement training entities, professional organizations, school districts, and others.
To facilitate completion of the 12 topic areas, it is suggested that current and potential school resource officers:
- Examine transcripts of their existing, completed trainings to determine if one or more of the topics has been covered.
- Document participation in currently offered law enforcement or school district trainings which address the required topics.
- Include verification of participation in NASRO, WSSO, or other professional conferences and training opportunities which address the topic areas.
- Provide copies of all documentation to law enforcement agencies, and assess remaining training needs.
Include those needs which may be met through upcoming, planned training opportunities.
- Work with their law enforcement agency to develop a personalized plan to meet the requirements.
Specific Topic Suggestions
American Bar Association: The Erosion of Disparate Impact and Future of Civil Rights in Education Part 2 of the Education and Democracy Webinar Series
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), Trauma Informed Schools for Children in K–12: A System Framework
Stanford Children's Health, Adolescent Mental Health: Early Intervention and the Youth Perspective
Community Networks of Specialized Care 3 Part Webinar Series:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Cultural Awareness: Children and Youth in Disasters
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), HIPAA and FERPA in Schools: Sharing Information to Improve Outcomes
To supplement the suggestions above, several web sites offer a variety of online courses. As an example, a variety of catalogs and specific courses can be accessed by following these links:
- LocalGovU 2019 Course Catalog
- National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA)
- Online Law Enforcement Training | PoliceOne Academy
- PoliceOne Academy 2019 Course Catalog
- SafeSchools | Award-Winning K-12 Compliance and Safety Training
- Training Management System: Easy Setup & Automation Saves You Time
- SafeSchools Course Categories
Additional Informational Resources