The end of summer is near and students have returned to their designated schools. Doing so, they will notice one person at the secondary level schools that is becoming a traditional staff member - the School Resource Officer (SRO), a licensed police officer serving as a liaison between the school and the police community.
A SRO is assigned to a specified school building to work with a triad concept reflecting the philosophy of the SRO program, including taking on the role of guest speaker/teacher, informal counselor, and law enforcement officer. As a guest speaker/teacher they become a member of the faculty, introducing relevant topics and supporting school rules and procedures, providing law related education to the students, parents, and staff. SRO's work within the context of knowledge, training, and the expertise of a law enforcement officer when providing informal counseling, working closely with the school's counselors, social workers, psychologists, teachers, and administrators. The easiest role, and one that comes most natural to the SRO's, is that of the law enforcement officer, investigating crimes and making arrests when necessary.
The SRO program started to gain recognition nationally in January of 1973. In January 2005, the West Fargo School District and West Fargo Police Department put the SRO program in motion, with one officer designated to run the program, working with the high school and middle school.
As the school district has grown, so has the program. In January 2008 a second officer was added, allowing for one officer at the high school and community high school and another at the ninth grade center and middle school, holding the position for three years before being rotated out.
The program keeps reaching new heights each year, focusing on the same objective, providing a safe learning environment for the youth. Not only has the West Fargo SRO program grown, but so has the regions programs with Fargo employing seven SRO's, Cass County and Moorhead, two each, Grand Forks, three, and other communities like Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, and Jamestown with SRO programs as well.
Before officers take on the duties of a SRO, training is required, including participating in 40-hour block of training designed for new SRO's presented by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).
With the growth of the school district, some of the school buildings will house more than 1300 students, the same size as many of the communities in North Dakota. A growing community often means growing problems; like possession or selling of illegal substances and theft. SRO's will deal with persons involved with possession or distributing drugs and alcohol as well as with students who bring high dollar items such as iPods, psp's, or cell phones to school, making these students more susceptible to a theft. With so many young adults under one roof and tight areas to work in, these situations can also lead to harassment, threats, and even assaults. These types of incidents lead the SRO's to use their law enforcement skills and knowledge to correct these types of behaviors.
"The area I enjoy working in is the classroom. I have been able to talk with students and have discussions on all kinds of related topics. I have made presentations to science classes on breathalyzer machines, a law and justice class on the constitution, and math classes using a radar gun. It seems no matter the class topic, there is always an element relating to the field of law enforcement the SRO can use to contribute to the lesson. I really enjoy the ability to positively impact somebody's day by being a positive role model or by being a resource to help someone make a good decision in life.
A SRO's impact on a school community can come in the smallest form of just helping someone find a classroom or lead to something larger, such as helping someone who's contemplating suicide. A SRO's skills and knowledge is put to the test every day in attempts to help teachers and administrators provide a safe and healthy learning environment.
The West Fargo Police Department is proud to be partnered up with the West Fargo School District to provide the SRO program, all working together to make students excel and also stay safe."