The tragedy of Newtown has caused many, including both the NRA and the President, to request School Resource Officers in all schools. A similar program COPS was enacted in 2000 by President Clinton and allowed for the hiring of 600 SROs. Those officers were distributed among 289 communities. One might expect that the schools chosen for such expenditures would be those with highest concerns for violence.
President Obama’s Executive Order will likely bear similar issues. But what about Newtown? Was there a history of violence? Would limitations put officers in high schools where there are more worries? Would this order have stopped the tragedy?
Here’s a simple math problem. There are 99,000 public schools. President Obama’s Executive Order says the administration will give UP to 1,000 school resource officers and counselors. How many officers will be allocated PER school?
So the question is, will your school be one of the lucky ones? Or will you have to share a resource officer with ten or, mathematically, one hundred other schools?
The president wants to assure all Americans that their children will be safe in school but these numbers appear more a patch than a safety plan.
From the White House document: Now is the Time
PUT UP TO 1,000 MORE SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS AND
COUNSELORS IN SCHOOLS AND HELP SCHOOLS INVEST IN SAFETY
Putting school resource officers and mental health professionals in schools can help prevent school crime and student-on-student violence. School resource officers are specially trained police officers that work in schools. When equipped with proper training and supported by evidence-based school discipline policies, they can deter crime with their presence and advance community policing objectives. Their roles as teachers and counselors enable them to develop trusting relationships with students that can result in threats being detected and crises averted before they occur. School psychologists, social workers, and counselors can help create a safe and nurturing school climate by providing mental health services to students who need help. Not every school will want police officers
or additional school counselors, but we should do what we can to help schools get the staff they determine they need to stay safe.
• Take executive action to provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers: COPS Hiring Grants, which help police departments hire officers, can already be used by departments to fund school resource officers. This year, the Department of Justice will provide an incentive for police departments to hire these officers by providing a preference for grant applications that support school resource officers.
• Put up to 1,000 new school resource officers and school counselors on the job: The Administration is proposing a new Comprehensive School Safety program, which will help school districts hire staff and make other critical investments in school safety. The program will give $150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. The Department of Justice will also develop a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students.
• Invest in other strategies to make our schools safer: School districts could also use these Comprehensive School Safety Grants to purchase school safety equipment; develop and update public safety plans; conduct threat assessments; and train “crisis intervention teams” of law enforcement officers to work with the mental health community to respond to and assist students in crisis. And the General Services Administration will use its purchasing power to help schools buy safety equipment affordably.