How school resource officers can help ensure student safety during the pandemic
Friday, August 28, 2020
School resource officers are often the calm in the middle of daily educational chaos. During a worldwide pandemic, these officers’ jobs have changed dramatically, but they can still bring some sense of normalcy to their students and school staff while fighting crime and COVID-19.
School resource officers, whether they are part of the city police department or the school district’s own police agency, are on campus to ensure the safety of students, teachers, staff and administrators, and this is one thing they can definitely keep doing — in new ways.
For students attending classes in person, school resource officers can remind youngsters of district rules, such as staying home if they are sick, coughing and sneezing into their elbows, socially distancing (yes, even from your friends!), wearing masks and washing their hands frequently, while setting an example themselves. While officers shouldn’t be in charge of disciplining students who consistently disobey COVID-19 protocol, they can report repeat offenders to school administrators.
Officers should also plan to keep a stash of hand sanitizer in their patrol cars or offices for themselves and others, plus keep sanitizing wipes or water and cleaners on hand to consistently wipe down surfaces in their areas.
For students attending classes virtually, resource officers can connect via internet with messages to students to stay safe by taking the same measures — and letting them know that they are missed. Some resource officers have gone above and beyond, recording videos on social media of themselves reading books, singing, dancing and doing magic tricks for the youngsters. Others make appearances during teachers’ online lessons, just to stay in touch with their students.
Some officers have even taken a turn at teaching lessons, filming bike safety videos or recording nature hikes for teachers’ earth science lessons.
During the pandemic, some school districts have looked at doing away with resource officers because of a loss of funds or because classes are not being held on campus. Districts need to weigh the cost and value of school security and guidance that the resource officers provide.
For many students, school resource officers serve as mentors and counselors. Officers can be a sounding boards for kids who are being bullied, enduring a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend, having trouble at home or struggling to stay in school. By being available and attentive, officers can gauge whether the students’ problems are passing or escalating and when they need to get involved.
Officers are also vital for providing security for really dangerous situations, such as drivers not paying attention in school pickup and drop-off lines, unauthorized people on campus and potential school shootings.
School resource officers, teachers and staff also have stepped up in pandemic-produced situations, such as helping to hand out meals throughout the summer and into the fall semester for families who have been hit hard by the loss of free and reduced lunches that schools provide and the economic impact and loss of income.
Many officers were also on hand, helping to pass out computers and devices to students for virtual learning in drive-through pickup lines and, in some instances, even delivering the computers to their students’ homes.
The contact from handing out food and devices gives officers a chance to connect with their students, who they might not have seen for months due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
As always, school resource officers have the opportunity to be a calming influence on campus, even during a state of emergency or pandemic, answering questions about safety and protocol, building relationships and reassuring students and staff that everything is going to be alright.
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