The Kentucky Center for School Safety has been actively involved with implementation and training for School Resource Officer (SRO) programs statewide. The Center maintains a listing of all SROs in the state, and estimates that there are between 100 and 150 officers in the state.
It is one of the goals of the KCSS to work with school districts and law enforcement to help implement, improve, and guide SRO programs statewide. To those ends, the KCSS is working to identify those programs which model effective strategies and provide that information to districts considering an SRO program through this website, through the KCSS newsletter, through the SRO video, and the SRO Conference.
While most school districts enjoy a collaborative arrangement with their local law enforcement offices, there are five districts in Kentucky where the district employs its own special law enforcement officers: Clay, Fayette, Jefferson, McCracken and Nicholas.
Many exemplary SRO and truancy programs exist throughout the state. These model programs can serve to provide inspiration and options for fledgling programs.
The Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers named Deputy Kenny Collins the 2006 Officer of the Year at its annual conference held in Bowling Green. Deputy Collins has 22 years of experience as a law enforcement officer, including five years as a SRO at Calloway County High School.
The principal of the school, Yvette Pyle, recommended him for the award for going above and beyond what is required as SRO. Some example of his extra duties include: assist with Driver Education program by teaching and discussing driving related laws; promote and participate in Prom Promise; schedule the KCPC Fatal Driving Simulation Experience; participate in Drive to Stay Alive program; instruct drug and alcohol abuse prevention initiatives in the classroom; and support Project Graduation.
As significant as these activities are, perhaps the most critical role Deputy Collins plays is as a member of the administrative team charged with maintaining order in the school. The principal, vice-principal, athletic director and SRO comprise the team that make decisions concerning consequences for disciplinary and law violations. They understand the importance of consistency and fairness in enforcing rules and assessing penalties for Board and law violations and work closely together to insure that this occurs. For serious offenses, the school files criminal charges and students understand that their actions will have consequences.
The team has developed a close working relationship with the local court system and, more likely than not, the judge is likely to assess penalties for the offenses. As a result of this approach, there were no cases of terroristic threatening, drugs, alcohol, or weapons violations to refer to the Board in the 2004-05 school year and only one referral during the 2005-06 school year. The number of law related incidents has also dramatically decreased: 77 in ’01-’02 (the officer’s first year), 25 in ’02-’03, 15 in ’03-’04, 12 in ’04-’05, and 11 in ’05-’06. The principal gives much of the credit for the decrease in violations to the officer’s presence and his role on the administrative team.
Deputy Collins is very accessible to the 900 students who attend Calloway County High School; his office is located off a main hallway with an open door policy. He gives students his cell phone number and encourages them to call him any time if they have a problem or an issue they want to discuss. He is also a EMT and has assisted in medical emergencies at the school. He is credited with saving the lives of at least two students.
The officer’s knowledge of law enforcement activities during non-school hours has proven an unexpected asset, as he is able to help administrators prevent problems which occur in the community from spilling over into school hours.
Deputy Collins has also had an impact in helping school officials deal with situations involving parent aggression. He encourages educators to expect civil behavior in their dealings with parents and is ready to intervene if problems arise. Often, his presence outside the hallway during a parent-staff meeting is sufficient to prevent problems.
SRO Program in Boone County
The School Resource Officer (SRO) program operated by the Boone County Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the state. Sheriff Mike Helmig started the program in 1999 by obtaining a COPS IN SCHOOLS grant for four officers, but perhaps the most outstanding part of this program is the level of cooperation between the Sheriff’s office and the school system that it exemplifies.
Expansion of the program in 2000 added a School Safety Director, whose expenses are shared by the COPS grant and Boone County Schools. While all of the Boone County SROs are retired law enforcement officers, they work only during the school year, allowing them to pursue other interests during the summer months or obtain other employment. This policy has been proven to be an excellent recruitment tool.
Expansion of the program in 2000 allowed an SRO to be assigned to each of the district’s middle and high schools in the county. The one officer-one school assignment reflects the importance that the program places on creating close relationships with students and faculty.
Responsibilities of the officers are outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Sheriff’s office and school system:
Recently, the program implemented a helpline for students. “This way students can report school safety concerns anonymously, creating an open line of communication,” said School Safety Director Joe Humbert. The phone line connects to a digital answering machine that allows students to leave a message for Humbert or other SROs about things that are going on inside or outside of the school. Flyers explaining the program have been placed in every school in the district and students in art classes will be designing posters to promote the helpline.
Joe also plans to develop a website for the SRO program to include pictures and information about the current officers, as well as provide open forums for students.
SRO Program in Clay County
The Clay County school system has four School Resource Officers (SROs) assigned to its elementary, middle and high schools. A COPS grant funds two officer positions and Title IV and Safe School are used to pay for the other two after the termination of a COPS grant The program was initiated in 1999, and while some community members were initially skeptical about the program, the SROs program now has the strong support of school officials, students and parents.
Each of the officers has previous law enforcement experience; a qualification that they think is particularly important as many of the situations in which they are involved require individual judgment and discretion. In addition, they feel that it is important that officers have a sense of humor in order to work effectively with students. The officers talk to students about their hobbies, interests, and families so that the youth can get to know them as individuals, not just law enforcement officers.
As is often the case with many new SRO programs, the duties of the officers were not well defined the first year of operation. The officers mainly made themselves visible at the school, spending time in the hallways, lunch rooms, and other spaces where students gathered. One of the first goals of the officers was to reduce the number of fights and disorderly conduct incidents. The second year, their roles expanded as principals increasingly called upon them for advice and they began going to classrooms to make presentations. In addition, they perform monthly safety inspections at each school. They frequently meet with parents, sit in on ARC meetings, accompany students on senior trips and other extracurricular activities as well as provide advice to school staff. Currently, they play an important role with CATS testing, going to every fifth grade class and talking about issues related to the practical living core content.
Tommy Jordan, the first SRO hired by the district, is a retired Kentucky State trooper. He thinks that it is important for SROs to get involved with parents. In fact, he frequently informs parents that since his job is to insure school safety, he works for them as well as for school officials. It is not unusual for parents to call him at home to talk or seek advice.
One of the most significant contributions of the SROs was completion of a critical incident planning document three years ago. It was a collaborative efforts with police chiefs, fire and emergency department personnel and school officials. The plan, which includes drawings of each school, outlines actions to be taken and assigns responsibilities for each task, and includes a plan to deal with the media. Practice drills are held at the schools once or twice a year and include representatives of all of the parties involved.
The officers agree that the duties of an SRO are significantly different than those of a regular patrol officers and, in fact, more rewarding. As patrol officers, they are used to reacting to an event that has already taken place; they make an arrest and take someone into custody. As an SRO, they have the opportunity to prevent law violations through the relationships they develop with students.
The officers agree that their involvement with students with learning disabilities requires special consideration. They frequently call upon the special education coordinator to learn more about the individual student so that their interventions can be more effective. They cite the need to react more cautiously and use discretion in enforcing policies.
The school system maintains a 911 hotline and the officers have obtained valuable information from the calls that helps the local law enforcement agency solve crimes in the community. As a result of the information gained through their interaction with students, the officers are responsible for approximately 75% of the local law enforcement agency’s cases. Many of the cases involves drug sales by adults in the community.
Dr. Deann Stivers Allen who played a critical role in getting the SRO started, says “The School Resource Officer program is just one critical element in ensuring student achievement and success in Clay County. Neither students can learn or teachers teach if the members of the educational community do not feel safe. Continually addressing both the perception of safety and the reality of safety is a driving force of the SRO program. Additionally, the SROs’ expertise in certain areas of the Core Content has provided teachers a resource for delivery and reinforcement of these concepts.”
For additional information contact Dr. Deann Stivers Allen (859) 598-2168 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Erlanger SRO is Student-Focused
Todd Brendel finds that he is a more effective School Resource Officer by being actively involved with student organizations and school events. A law enforcement officer since 1990, his background as a DARE officer led to his interest in the SRO officer position established by the Erlanger Police Department in 1999. Since that time, he has been assigned to Tichenor Middle School in the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent school district which is located in Kenton County.
Lucy Riffle, principal of the Middle School, thinks that administrators play an important role in insuring the success of the program “by making SROs members of the school’s leadership team. If SROs remain isolated from the school community, they cannot be near as effective.” Ms. Riffle has experienced first hand the benefits of having a SRO as “students are more likely to approach Officer Brendel rather than school administrators with problems, issues or suggestions. Todd shares those with us and we are able to address some of the problems before they become serious.” The city of Erlanger also recognizes the value of the program and assumed funding for the program once a COPS grant expired. The police department also operates an Adopt a School program in which officers stop by an assigned school during their shift, indicating the strong partnership between the agency and the school district.
Officer Brendel was the first SRO in the state to take advantage of the Sprint’s company offer to furnish cell phones to law enforcement officers in schools. The purpose of the program, referred to as the “Phone Call for Safety Hot Line”, was to allow parents, students, and community members to call the officers and report suspected criminal activity in the schools and neighborhood. Officer Brendel helped the company design posters publicizing the program that listed phone numbers the public could access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to contact him or Mark Jolly, the district’s other SRO. At the beginning of each school year, the students are made aware of the program as well as issued wallet size cards with the phone numbers that they can carry with them. The officer finds that both students and parents also use the phones to discuss problems with the officers.
With the help of Darrell Cammack and other faculty members, Officer Brendel helped establish the first Youth Crime Watch program in Kentucky. Approximately 100 students participate in the program and activities include a student patrol in which students with walkie talkies patrol the interior and exterior of the school to watch for altercations, vandalism, and any unusual activities. They use two-way radios to report any significant incidents to the SRO and complete “Youth Patrol Investigation Forms” which are handed in at the end of their patrol. The patrols reinforce the idea that students play an important role in maintaining safe schools.
The Youth Crime Watch program also operates a crossing guard program and a community service program in which students help clean up parks and homes for the elderly and distribute donated toys to children in hospitals. Participants hold fund raisers throughout the year to pay for the special activities, patrol equipment and uniforms, and to send a delegation to the national conference. The club also receives support from 25 local businesses, which display donated posters stating, “This Business Supports Youth Crime Watch at Tichenor Middle School”. A job shadowing program allows students to take day-long field trips to businesses to observe the duties the employees perform.
Principal Riffle and Officer Brendel have noticed that vandalism, fights and after-school mischief have decreased since initiation of the program and the crossing guard program has resulted in slower traffic in front of the school.
Although he teaches DARE at the elementary schools one day each week, Officer Brendel spends the remaining four days at the middle school which allows him to form strong relationships with faculty, administrators and students. He frequently makes presentations in the classroom on topics such as bike safety and legal issues such as search and seizure and also organizes mock jury trials.
Other activities in which Officer Brendel is involved include the Special Olympics, field trips to space camp and sporting events. Participation in school events reaps rewards in terms of developing strong relationships with students according to Officer Brendel, “If you get involved, students know that you care. They need to get to know you as a person and learn that you are there to assist them.”
Todd Brendel is a member of the national faculty with Youth Crime Watch and is on probationary status with the National School Resource Officer Association as a certified instructor.
Pulaski County SRO Goes Online
The School Resource Officer Program for the Pulaski County School System is a beacon in the mist for those schools unable to generate enthusiasm for their SRO programs. A positive message is offered and an attainable example is gifted to all who are interested in making their schools as safe as possible. As we all know, school morale and safety are incredibly important because it is proven that safe schools make successful students.
This new website details the successes of the School Resource Officer program that has been so productive in Pulaski County. Recently eight students from Pulaski County were among the first to complete the School Resource Officer student program, Community Works, which combines education and action in order to develop self-esteem, leadership and citizenship skills in both students and teachers.
Pulaski County’s School Resource Officer web-page offers a detailed list of twelve different student programs that can be implemented in the classroom at almost all grade levels. Pulaski County has offered a student police academy to middle and high school students called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). GEAR UP allows students with an interest in law enforcement the opportunity to learn the various requirements and skills needed to become a police officer.
School Resource Officers Michael Grigsby and Mike Corell both serve on the Community Council for Character, which strongly supports Character-Centered Teaching. Pulaski County uses Character-Centered Teaching because it is an approach that promotes the development of guiding principles in students. Teachers conduct their academic instruction in a manner which clearly and purposefully reflects their own positive character attributes. Pulaski County’s School Resource Officers also condone the combination of Character-Centered Teaching with the 12 Guiding Principles, which are based on the virtues that underlay American government and civil society. The 12 Guiding Principles describe a basic way of acting rather than specific behaviors, which allows schools to bring their diverse communities together by acknowledging basic virtues that everybody has in common.
The Pulaski County School Resource Officer program offers a comprehensive school safety message detailing the proper procedure to follow in case of disaster. This school safety message is very clear about maintaining safety in all kinds of emergencies- including possible terrorist attacks.
Pulaski’s School Resource Officers provide professional development programs to the staff of the Pulaski County School District. Classes like; “Drug and Drug Paraphernalia Recognition,” “Weapons Identification and Recognition,” “Early Warning- Timely Response,” “Teen Culture and Drug Update,” “Gangs and Gang Identification,” and an “Introduction to the School Resource Officer” are among the many reasons Pulaski’s SRO program has been so successful.