When I was asked by School Board Member Julius Melendez to take part in his SRO Advisory Group, I was honored and humbled to be asked to be a part of this.
To rethink and help develop a clear School Resource Officer policy for the Osceola County School District that is uniformly applied to all SROs…, I was shocked to learn that there was no clear policy specifically for SROs to begin with.
Not that there is nothing, each of the 3 respective policing agencies (OCSO, KPD, SCPD) have a contract with the School Board pertaining to SROs that changes year to year, but that there is no uniform school board policy that applies to all 3 agencies.
So far, we have had 2 meetings and have had many great community leaders and speakers come to these meetings.
Kissimmee Police Chief O’Dell and his thoughts, St. Cloud Police Chief Gauntlett and his thoughts, and Yolanda Rodriguez from the School District Special Needs Department and the CPI program, which teaches non- violent intervention.
Also, Dr. Debra Pace, the School Superintendent, has been quite insightful and helpful to our group.
Everyone that has come to speak has given great detail, and the Group has asked some great questions to gain more insight.
I do hope that Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez will join our meetings and add his input, as he has chosen not to attend thus far.
I have though been learning a lot and absorbing as much as I can, mostly because I am a “fish out of water” so to speak amongst the group.
I am not a teacher. I am not former law enforcement. I have no agenda and am not tied to any organizations. And I believe that’s exactly why I am here.
I have family in law enforcement, one who serves locally, I also have family in education locally, and 2 kids in the Osceola County School System, one who is “Special Needs”.
So my thoughts toward SROs come from my past, my research, media, and my kids experience.
In my past, SROs taught D.A.R.E., and I’m sure most folks from my generation had the same experience, or something similar.
Everyone knew the SRO, and looked at them like a teacher “with a badge”.
School shootings and extreme violence were not something people thought about back then (the 90’s), but we also still had “Corporal Punishment” in school. (No, I do not condone that.)
To learn that the SRO today is basically a security guard, or enforcer, kind of surprised me.
I’m sure that’s not how the SRO feels, but on paper and from what I’m hearing, that’s how it looks.
When you look at them in that light, it’s no surprise that some are calling for their removal from schools.
I was also a bit shocked when presented with the breakdown of SROs by gender and race.
I think that Bernice Cabral from Alianza for Progress made a great point in our last meeting that there was not much diversity in some areas of the SRO program, as well as Chief Gauntlett’s comment that SROs can’t be appointed to that position, it’s voluntary.
Since it’s voluntary, how do we encourage a more diverse group to take part in this program? What can be done to change that?
Hopefully we will come to a consensus of how to improve in this area.
One theme that I keep hearing, and is sticking out like a sore thumb, is a lack of interaction between SROs and students.
Dr. Pace had stated that she had talked with some students and that the majority felt safer with the SRO on campus, but the students felt like they didn’t really interact much with the SRO.
Bernice from Alianza, when we were discussing a student survey, came up with a question “Do you know who your SRO is?”
If we have to ask this question, really, how much of a “Resource” are our School Resource Officers to our students?
There are hundreds of kids in a school. And only one SRO, 2 in High School.
How is the SRO supposed to know or have meaningful interactions with students if not in a classroom setting?
It seems as well that the 2 Police Chiefs agree. As they both have stated that the SRO serves the students better in a “mentorship” type role.
Why can’t the SRO teach a class, maybe an elective, on “Civics”, or “Law”, or “How to Interact with Law Enforcement”? I’m not saying D.A.R.E., because I don’t believe it worked. At least not for most that I know. ( I’m just throwing out ideas)
This is one way the SRO serves a meaningful purpose in a student’s life. Mentoring and teaching them something.
I don’t believe if we have an SRO in the school, that they are best serving our students “waiting for a crisis to happen” or handling basic behavioral issues.
Training also comes up a lot, and the CPI program that Yolanda Rodriguez presented with de-escalation techniques is great, especially after what we all saw come out of Liberty High, but I also hear what Tahitiana Chaffin said in this last meeting that when faced in a “fight or flight” type situation, a lot of a person’s training goes “out the window”.
Different situations require different measures. But I believe the CPI training, especially with it’s de-escalation methods, could make a big impact in on-campus situations.
Next, we will be looking at training further, and talking with staff and doing an orientation at OTech.
I will post my thoughts once again.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I only ask that they be respectful.
We are really trying to do something that will work in the best interests of students, teachers, parents, and the SROs.