How to Hire School Resource Officers

By Amy A. Matthews

Bullying prevention, suicide intervention, disaster response -- school districts of all sizes and demographics regularly face these issues. Increasingly, school officials are hiring school resource officers (SROs) to help address them. The conversation has shifted from whether we should get an SRO to how we can best use them.

The nature of the position often involves switching among law enforcement, school official, and counselor duties. But when and how the SRO assumes each role varies among schools. Each school needs to give thoughtful consideration to the options for engagement of individuals fulfilling the SRO role.

The employment arrangement for SROs impacts not only the school’s relationship with the individual, but also the school’s due process obligations toward students and staff.

Schools typically have three available options for engaging SROs (though state and local law may place limitations): direct employment of SROs as district police department members, hiring of SROs as independent contractors, and assignment of SROs from the local police force (typically through a memorandum of understanding between school and police department).

While the school-police partnership seems to be emerging as the most common arrangement, each option has advantages and drawbacks depending on the characteristics and needs of the school district.

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