More districts are hiring law enforcement to increase security in schools and can use state funding to do so, but lawmakers are debating what sort of training officers need before working around students.
Indiana requires school resource officers (SROs), to have 40 hours of specific training, but director of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association, Chase Lyday, says not every law enforcement officer in schools has had it.
“Many have not been trained to understand the context of special needs, understand the differences and the nuances of school law that’s different from street officer law,” he says.
One reason, he says, is a lack of clarity about who counts as an SRO.
“The problem is the ambiguity of what a school resource officer is. It’s used interchangeably with school corporation police officer: part time deputy who works in an off duty capacity a couple times a month.”
A bill heard in the Senate this week would have required all school-based officers to have SRO-specific training.
Mo Canady, executive director for the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), says training is a crucial component to an SRO’s success in schools. Specifically, when it comes to enhancing relationships among officers and students that he says in turn, can affect an entire community.
“The relationship building is the most important part of this assignment,” he says.
Canady says NASRO’s training covers a wide-range of essential topics for law enforcement before working closely with children, from teen brain development and trauma, to implicit bias and special education.
And as the presence of law enforcement grows in schools, more attention is being given to how effective they are in keeping children and schools safe, especially in schools with large populations of students of color.
But law enforcement and lawmakers against the proposal this week voiced concerns about logistics and availability for the training. They say forcing every officer working with schools to take specific SRO training could limit the number of officers eligible to protect schools.
The committee ultimately rejected the bill in a split vote, 5 to 6.