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Obama Administration Releases Tools for Districts to Best Utilize School Resource Officers

Obama Administration Releases Tools for Districts to Best Utilize School Resource Officers

In order to ensure the safety of students throughout the United States, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice have collaborated to release tools that outline ways schools can best carry out disciplinary policies.

"The new resources and letters released today build on the work of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative and the Council on Women and Girls, and respond to recommendations put forth by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing to support schools in developing more positive school climates and strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said the Department of Education in a press release.

"These efforts help districts, schools, and communities build credible and sustainable systems, structures, and partnerships that provide safe, supportive learning environments that uplift students and nurture them when they do well and when they need support to do better.”

The Department released today Safe School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Implementation Rubrics, a series of rubrics designed for local and state officials to use when determining the type of school-police relationship most effective for their respective communities. 

"These rubrics include five suggested action steps to ensure safe school-based enforcement though collaboration, understanding, and respect within a community’s schools. Each action step is based on research and evidence and reflects examples of existing school and law enforcement partnerships across the country,” the Department said.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Create sustainable partnerships and formalize MOUs [memoranda of understanding] among school districts, local law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice entities, and civil rights and community stakeholders.
  2. Ensure that MOUs meet constitutional and statutory civil rights requirements.
  3. Recruit and hire effective school resource officers (SROs) and school personnel.
  4. Keep your SROs and school personnel well trained.
  5. Continually evaluate SROs and school personnel, and recognize good performance.

Each action step comes with a corresponding checklist the Department says officials should use when implementing both new school-law enforcement policies and maintaining existing ones.

For instance, for action step 3, the rubric asks that officials understand appropriate hiring guidelines for school resource officers.

SROs, the Department says, should be individuals who are experienced in enriching the lives of youth, who are knowledgeable of developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed practices for interacting with youth and have effective mentoring skills.

When it comes to educators, the Department says school staff members should be trained to not call "upon SROs to address non-violent or non-threatening behavior by using less punitive methods such as restorative justice or using the student code of conduct,” as detailed in action step 4.

The Department hopes that the release of these new guidelines will further help its efforts to keep U.S. students in school and out of the justice system as part of the Obama Administration’s mission to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Read more about the new SECURe Implementation Rubrics.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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