Overuse of social media. The school-to-prison pipeline. Expansion of population diversity. Increased awareness of mental health issues, of victimization, of all types of violence.
All of these issues are in the forefront of the nation’s concerns about school safety, and all of them are topics that play a key role in recently revised curriculum from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).
In January 2016, NASRO launched a rewrite of its 40-hour basic SRO curriculum, touching on topics such as violence and victimization, the adolescent brain, and how to be a more effective teacher and informal counselor. In 2017, the organization added a new module on building relationships with diverse populations. The organization is in the process of updating its school security officer course to implement some of the same topics, and a 1.5-day SRO training on adolescent mental health is another new addition planned for spring 2018.
“We try to keep it fresh. Think about the ways the technology and social media have changed in the past 15 years – we try to keep pace with that,” says Executive Director Mo Canady. “And when you’re talking about dealing with diverse populations, there’s no question that for most SROs, working with very diverse groups of students is one of most eye-opening pieces of the job.”
Major updates such as the one that took place in 2016 occur periodically, based on both that desire to keep the curriculum fresh and on input from NASRO’s group of approximately 40 instructors, all of whom are either active or retired SROS. NASRO provides that group with updated training every 18 months as well, to “give them the tools they need to be the best quality trainers, keeping them informed on current topics and giving them the tools they need to be top-quality trainers,” says Training Director Kerri Williamson.
In addition to the trainings provided by those instructors at various times and locations throughout the year, NASRO offers a training conference every summer and several national school safety leader summits throughout the year. And in the end, the basic tenets behind all of those trainings are the triad concept of what an SRO does: law enforcement, teaching and informal counseling.
“We believe in its effectiveness, and that on a routine basis, officers with NASRO training are making a difference,” Canady says. “We’ve been supporting officers in schools in that role for almost 28 years, and for the past seven years, we’ve been extremely active in advocating for SROs in this role, in trying to educate school systems and the general public on what an SRO does.”
He adds that the organization emphasizes the importance of finding the right officer for the right job in addition to the need for proper training, and that SROs and agencies need to work collaboratively with school administrators: “We stand on that foundation, and if an agency follows our guidelines, we will advocate for that program.”
That increased emphasis on advocacy started in 2010, when studies first began to surface about the school-to-prison pipeline, he says, generating a push in some areas to remove SROs from school. Because research in the area was lacking, NASRO’s board of directors backed a research project that resulted in the publication of a report called To Protect and Educate (https://nasro.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/NASRO-To-Protect-and-Educate-nosecurity.pdf).
“We wanted to find out the truth as to whether we were really contributing, and the research indicated that as a whole, SROs are not a cause of the school-to-prison pipeline. Where the concept has been implemented well, there has been a reduction, rather than an increase, in the number of students who end up in prison,” Canady says. “That’s where the advocacy for SROs started, when we had the data to support it.”