Partnering with School Resource Officers to Keep our Schools Safe

Partnering with School Resource Officers to Keep our Schools Safe
Posted on 12/14/2016

Our belief in Leander ISD is that every student should be encouraged, supported and challenged to achieve the highest levels of knowledge, skills and character. We also believe that in order for students to feel supported and wholly focused on developing their knowledge and characters, they must feel safe—physically, socially, emotionally and academically. As the challenges facing our district are rapidly changing, LISD has implemented measures to ensure we are continually evaluating our safety conditions, seeking out new tools and making changes that will best serve our students and staff. In fact, following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, our district has conducted a safety audit every year, more than the state-mandated, three-year audit.

Parents and visitors to our campuses have likely seen a few of our most recent safety improvements. All visitors to our campuses must enter through the front office and present a valid photo I.D. on their first visit, which we check against a national registry of sex offenders. Approved visitors are issued a badge with their name, photo, date and location of their visit, which must be worn at all times. Last year, we also installed GPS systems in all of our buses to give parents the best data and ensure that students are well taken care of from the time we pick them up to the time they return home each day. Another initiative, launched a few years ago, is the Anonymous Alerts® tool, which allows students or parents to anonymously and quickly submit any sensitive or urgent student issues to school officials through a website or app. Students or parents can submit reports such as bullying, cyberbullying, depression, dating violence, drug or alcohol use, threats against the school, weapons on campus, etc.

Yet another safety program was established a couple decades ago and has proven to be one of our most effective tools in protecting our students, staff and campuses. The school resource officers (SRO) program is a partnership between LISD and the Leander and Cedar Park Police Departments, and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, to house a police officer at our middle and high school campuses, and to serve on-call to their assigned elementary school campuses.

While our SROs are officers first and trained by the police department or sheriff’s office, they are contracted through LISD and are a part of our organization, knowledgeable about our district security policies and procedures. SROs are not determined by assignment; rather, these men and women choose to serve in this program. They undergo training in child and adolescent development and psychology; conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques; positive behavioral interventions and support; and mental and behavioral health needs of children.

The primary duties of an SRO include: providing a visible law enforcement presence on campuses to deter, prevent and respond to campus crimes; advising school officials on law-related matters; assisting in assessing school safety needs; and serving as a vital link to other emergency personnel during critical incidents. In practice, their roles extend far beyond their primary duties. SROs become trusted adults for our students, who build bridges between law enforcement and the student body. They help create an environment of open communication and early intervention. They mentor students in need. They can also act as an educational resource, creating programs around the signs and consequences of criminal behavior, safe online behaviors and bike safety.

I am grateful for all of our SROs, administrators, students, staff, emergency responders and parents who work together so well to ensure our schools and communities are safe places where we can focus on what is most important: creating a bright future for the rising generation.

From my family to yours, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday break!