"Turns out, nobody really knows."
That's how The Standard-Examiner Editorial Board recently answered the question, "Just how effective are school resource officers (SROs)?" ("Are school resource officers needed?" June 22)
The issue was raised after Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt suggested Layton city pay for a school resource officer at Kaysville's Fairfield Junior High School since the majority of its students are Layton residents.
The issue has since been resolved; Hiatt changed his position.
However, the question posed by the paper demands an answer.
So just how effective are school resource officers? Those who rely on their services throughout the school year --¬ like secondary school principals in the Davis School District --¬ say they are critical.
"I understand the concern some may have about SROs," says Bountiful Junior High School Principal Vicki Ingram, "but I think many miss the point of why they are so important in our schools and to our community.
"The program was not started to be a "solution" to legal issues that happen in schools," Ingram says, "but rather as a proactive way to try to build relationships with young adults to help prevent them from getting involved in illegal activities."
Spencer Hansen, principal of Centerville Junior High School, states: "School resource officers act as a liaison with our local police department.¬ They help keep us informed of sex offenders, violent offenders and recent parolees who are in our vicinity."
Clearfield High School Principal Suzi Jensen explains her school resource officer played a major role in maintaining a safe learning environment when the school went into lockdown. The action was taken when two nearby banks were robbed at gunpoint. At one point, the armed criminal was thought to have entered the school.
"His presence, actions,¬ and knowledge of our school and students provided a quick resolve to a situation that otherwise could have been chaotic and dangerous for all involved," Jensen says.
Central Davis Junior High School Principal Dave Tanner comments, "Our SRO has participated in our faculty meetings teaching and informing about gangs, safety, and other valuable information.¬ He is in our halls, lunchroom, after-school, at games and around the school developing relationships with students and staff."
Because of that relationship, Tanner said his SRO has prevented fights, learned about students carrying drugs and has kept students from leaving campus.
"He has also helped defuse several heated parents who have come into the office. He has also helped translate for the administrative team when we have met with parents who speak Spanish."
Tanner also shares an incident in which a "dad" approached a junior high school girl at a basketball game and asked her for her picture and phone number. After writing her phone number on his hand, he left the building, but was met by the SRO.
"He asked the dad if he knew the girl and he said 'No.' He then asked why he asked for her photo and number," Tanner said. "The man said he didn't. The SRO asked to see his hand. The man had a phone number written on it. Our SRO told him to wipe it off completely. When he had, he asked for the man's ID and then told him he was not allowed on any school grounds.
"I think about this one incident," Tanner says. "If he had not been at our game and took notice of what was happening, who knows what may have become of this situation and a young girl. This single incident was worth his yearly salary."
North Layton Junior High School Principal Kathryn Ashton says her school administrative team dealt with 91 students referred to the office for safe-school violations.¬ After each had an opportunity to speak with administrators and the SRO,¬ 26 were charged for their actions.¬
"I cannot say how many students would have violated school rules¬ without police presence," Ashton said, "but I can say that at the very least, 65 students changed their behavior because they were able to speak with a police officer before things got out of their control.¬
"Additionally, our¬ police officer is an invaluable resource to our parents," Ashton says.¬ "There have been countless times that a parent has called or come in to the school needing advice or correction by our police officer.¬ ¬ On top of this,¬ anytime¬ we have a concern about a student's well-being, our SRO is literally a door away.¬ He is immediately able to meet with the student, go to the student's home if necessary, speak with parents and contact family services if needed. These school officers are specially trained to deal with our unique age-group of people."
So, does nobody really know if SROs are effective? A simple response from any Davis School District secondary principal answers that question.
Chris Williams is the Communication and Partnerships director for the Davis School District.