The School Counselor and School Resource Officers
ASCA PositionSchool counselors are leaders, advocates, collaborators, and consultants who create systemic change to ensure equitable educational outcomes through the school counseling program. School counselors collaborate and advocate with school resource officers (SROs) to ensure equal opportunities and safety for all students.
The RationaleThe National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO, n.d.) defines an SRO as, “a carefully selected, specifically trained and properly equipped law enforcement officer with sworn authority, trained in school-based law enforcement and crisis response, and assigned by an employing law enforcement agency to work collaboratively with one or more schools using community-oriented policing concepts” (para. 2). Despite a lack of evidence on the long-term effect that the presence of SROs has on student outcomes, many school districts continue to utilize SROs with the goal to increase safety in schools.
SROs contribute to safety “by ensuring a safe and secure campus, educating students about law-related topics, and mentoring students as counselors and role models” (NASRO, 2012, p. 21). School counselors are also leaders in safe school initiatives and serve as active participants in fostering safety in schools.
The most prominent concern regarding SROs in schools is a lack of consistency in training and cohesion with program design and implementation. This lack of consistency can lead “to conflict and misunderstanding that can have negative consequences for students and schools” (Fisher et al., 2022 p. 562).
Evidence presented against SRO positions is centered on concerns that the SRO presence contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. Research shows “the presence of a school resource officer increases the likelihood that students will be disciplined and arrested for offenses that were once resolved through non-legal means by school staff and administration” (Almanza et al., 2022, p. 2). This evidence, however, does not apply only to SROs as, “It is difficult to discern SROs’ impact on or contribution to the school-to-prison link” because “such a pipeline features numerous stakeholders, including administrators, teachers and staff, who might also contribute to this critical issue” (Paez & Colvin, 2021, p. 192).
The School Counselor's RoleThrough the school counseling program, school counselors advocate for school safety and success for all students and collaborate to remove barriers that may impede equitable student outcomes. As systemic change agents, school counselors:
- Advocate that in districts where they are employed, SROs follow the guidelines, training and education recommended by NASRO
- Advocate for uniformity in SRO programming (Almanza et al., 2022) and that school administrators and district leaders follow the memorandum of understanding, which outlines the “tasks to be performed by the SRO when assisting school officials in providing a safe and effective learning environment” (NASRO, 2012, p. 47)
- Collaborate with administrators, teams and school staff, including SROs, to prevent violence on campus
- Work with SROs to educate the school community about collaborative services designed to meet students’ needs
- Engage in a collaborative problem-solving model with SROs to meet student needs to deliver a community approach to problem-solving, as opposed to traditional legal responses (Fisher et al., 2022)
- Consult with SROs to inform school counselor interventions with students in need of support
- Educate the school community on best practices that build positive relationships between SROs and students and families (Fisher et al., 2022)
SummaryWhile the research regarding the impact of the presence of SROs on student outcomes is divided, in schools where SROs are employed, it is the school counselor’s responsibility to advocate, collaborate, and educate to ensure equal opportunities and safety for all students and partners.
ReferencesAlmanza, M., Mason, M., & Melde, C. (2022). Perceptions of school resource officers: Protectors or prosecutors? Criminal Justice Review, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/07340168221113352
Fisher, B., McKenna, J., Higgins, E., Maguire, E., & Homer, E. (2022). The alignment between community policing and the work of school resource officers. Police Quarterly, 25(4), 561–587.
National Association of School Resource Officers. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. https://www.nasro.org/faq/
National Association of School Resource Officers. (2012). To protect and educate: The school resource officer and the prevention of violence in schools. https://www.nasro.org/clientuploads/resources/NASRO-Protect-and-Educate.pdf
Paez, G., & Colvin, R. (2021). Identifying and intervening to stop school bullying: the role of school resource officers. Safer Communities, 20(3), 189–207. https://doi.org/10.1108/SC-11-2020-0041