Study Shows SROs Work to ‘Seal Off School-to-Prison Pipelines’

“Responses of more than 1,700 SROs from all 50 states indicate that when encountering negative, potentially criminal student behaviors, respondents seek to avoid the justice system as their preferred option.”

Study Shows SROs Work to ‘Seal Off School-to-Prison Pipelines’

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HOOVER, Ala. — Recent, nationwide research offers evidence that school resource officers (SROs) work as positive members of school communities and collaborate in a decision-making process intended to divert students from the criminal justice system.

“Responses of more than 1,700 SROs from all 50 states indicate that when encountering negative, potentially criminal student behaviors, respondents seek to avoid the justice system as their preferred option,” said researcher Beth Sanborn, an SRO in Pennsylvania who holds a doctoral degree in public administration. “Rather than building ‘school-to-prison pipelines,’ SROs who responded to our survey are working to seal them off.”

“When arrests were necessary,” Sanborn continued, “nearly two thirds of those cases started with referrals from other school staff members, or other means, not from behavior observed by SROs.”

SROs are career law enforcement officers with sworn authority who are deployed by employing law enforcement agencies in community-oriented policing assignments to work in collaboration with one or more schools.

While the vast majority of respondents chose “law enforcement” as the role to which they most closely relate, “mentor/counselor” ranked second among nearly two thirds of respondents, indicating that most SROs view their roles as far more than law enforcement.

The study also found that on most days, 70% of respondents meet with school administration and 56% work with guidance counselors, school nurses or social workers, indicating strong collaboration between SROs and other school staff members.

The study, “Measuring the Strategic Fit of the School Resource Officer with Law Enforcement (Leaders), the Education System, the Community and Other Interested Parties,” is published on the website of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), which assisted in the execution of the research. Sanborn conducted the research in collaboration with West Chester University public policy and administration Professor Jeremy Phillips and Frank Mielke, president of Audubon Management Consultants.

NASRO forwarded invitations to participate in the research to members of its mailing list of approximately 11,000 people. The list included SROs, many of whom have attended training or conferences presented by NASRO, as well as school security officers (who are not law enforcement officers), educators and others. NASRO leadership encouraged individuals on the list to participate in online surveys created by the researchers. While the authors’ current report reflects only the responses of SROs, they hope to provide similar measurements from the responses of law enforcement leaders, educators and community members.

About NASRO

NASRO is a nonprofit organization for school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators, and school security and safety professionals working as partners to protect students, school faculty and staff, and the schools they attend. NASRO is headquartered in Hoover, Alabama, and it was established in 1991. For more information, visit www.nasro.org.

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