Best Practices for School Policing
Aug. 14, 2015 – The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) has developed this position statement in response to a recent event involving a school resource officer (SRO) allegedly using physical restraints on a special needs child and other incidents with the involvement of SROs in school disciplinary situations. NASRO recognizes that SROs always have the best interests of students at heart, and have an understanding of several physical and psychological factors that could affect disciplinary incidents.
A Clear and Concise Memorandum of Understanding is Essential
Every law enforcement agency that places an officer in a school should have in place a memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed by the heads of both the law enforcement agency and the educational institution. NASRO recommends that the MOU:
- Require that all school resource officers (SROs) be carefully selected law enforcement officers who have received specialized SRO training in the use of police powers and authority in a school environment.
- Clearly define the roles of the SRO to include those of:
- Law enforcement officer
- Informal counselor
- Prohibit SROs from becoming involved in formal school discipline situations that are the responsibility of school administrators.
SROs must Receive Training Regarding Special Needs Children
Recognizing the critical need for SROs to receive specialized training in the education of special-needs children, NASRO includes extensive information on the topic in the SRO courses it makes available to all police agencies nationwide. NASRO also includes sessions by experts on the topic at its annual national conferences.
NASRO’s training helps SROs understand how special needs children and their behaviors are different from those who don’t have special needs. It also provides SROs with information on special education laws, regulations and policies, including the Individualized Education Program (IEP) document that schools create for each special education student. Typically, the IEP for a student known to have behavior issues clearly specifies how educators will respond to such issues.
NASRO training also emphasizes proactive school policing – including relationship building – designed to prevent the need for SRO interventions with any student, including special needs students.
NASRO continually evaluates its SRO curriculum and plans to investigate expanding special education components even further.
Use of Physical Restraint Devices is Rarely Necessary
NASRO recognizes that every state and local law enforcement agency has its own policies regarding the appropriate use of physical restraint. NASRO believes the U.S. Department of Education’s position that “restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff” is the best practice to follow in nearly all situations.
Further, when agencies and educational institutions follow NASRO’s recommended practice of prohibiting SRO involvement in formal school discipline, an SRO should need to use a physical restraint device (e.g. handcuffs or flex cuffs) only in a case that requires the physical arrest of a student for referral to the criminal justice system.
NASRO Offers Support to Policymakers
NASRO has years of experience developing best practices in school policing – practices that local jurisdictions throughout the nation recognize and implement. The Association stands ready to assist any policymaker at the state or local level with the creation of legislation, regulations and/or policies that reflect these practices and help prevent issues that can lead to allegations of SRO misconduct.