The McKinney ISD School Resource Officer program, a partnership between MISD and the McKinney Police Department, has been recognized by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) as a National Model Agency.
The award is presented to agencies that exemplify the NASRO Triad Concept and the training, policies and standards that ensure professional service to the school community.
Last year, only nine SRO departments from across the U.S. received the honor.
NASRO’s Triad Concept divides SRO responsibilities into three components: teacher, informal counselor and law enforcement officer. According to NASRO, training law enforcement to educate, counsel and protect school communities equips its members to promote a positive image of law enforcement to school children and school communities.
The NASRO Model Agency Award follows two years of work on the part of MISD and the police department to implement increased levels of training and professional development for school resource officers.
The process began with an initiative for every MISD school resource officer to complete the training required to become SRO Practitioners. The National SRO Practitioner program was established as a way for NASRO, police agencies and school districts to recognize officers who have excelled in the art of school-based policing.
Included among the practitioner qualification requirements are:
• Serving as a school resource officer for a minimum of three years
• Completing a 40-hour Basic School Resource Officer training course
• Completing a 24-hour Advanced SRO OR Supervisors and Management training course
• Completing an additional 160 hours of specialized police in-service training
• Attending at least one NASRO School Safety Conference
• Submitting a formal application with supporting documentation
The district’s SRO program currently includes 14 McKinney police officers and a supervising sergeant. Two SROs are assigned to each of the district’s high school campuses along with one at each of the district’s five middle schools. At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, two new SRO positions were added to serve the district’s elementary schools.
The vision for the SRO program has always been that officers on MISD campuses would perform a role that extends beyond keeping students safe.
“School resource officers are in a unique position to promote a positive relationship between the police department and the community through the interactions they have with students every day,” said Cody Cunningham, MISD chief communications and support services officer. “Our intent for the SRO program, in addition to the primary goal of keeping students safe, has been that school resource officers would be seen as members of each campus community, getting to know our students, and through that influence, promote positive attitudes and behavior at our schools.”
Glen Oaks Elementary Principal Molly Hovan has witnessed that philosophy in action this year with Ofc. Teresa Lynch, who makes regular visits as she patrols the elementary schools under her watch.
“Ofc. Lynch has integrated herself into our school,” said Hovan. “I might see her standing under the clock greeting students in the morning; she might go to some of the different classrooms. And, the kids see her on a regular basis, so there isn’t any alarm. They don’t ask, ‘Why is the police officer here? What’s going on today?’ So, they really see her in the true sense of the word: she’s a resource to our school versus just ‘an officer on our campus.’ So, that’s made a big impact. She’s good at getting on our students’ level, and it really has softened the barrier between the kids and the SRO and our students just seeing her as part of our school.”
Officers Logan and Martin serve at McKinney High School and have earned the respect and affection of students and staff alike for their approach to school-based law enforcement.
“The most important topic that we talk about with our teachers and paraprofessionals is building relationships with our students,” said MHS Principal Alan Arbabi. “And, we don’t have to look far on our campus to see a great model of that—and that would be our SROs. They engage our kids when we need them the most, during the most stressful times, but also during the times that are not stressful. The kids feel very comfortable to go speak to them about things that are not necessarily happening at school, but at home. And, that gives our SROs an opportunity to use their wisdom to guide kids through that. So, that to me is the best part of it. Wherever they are in the building, students come up to them and high five them. For some students, that is going to be their first positive relationship with a police officer, so building that relationship is a huge part of their success and our success working together.”
Along with additional officers and enhanced training has come a heightened emphasis on communication and collaborative crisis planning between the district and police department. For the past two years, MISD has hosted “tabletop” exercises that have brought together MISD administrators and top officials from the police department, the McKinney Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management to discuss responses, roles and responsibilities in hypothetical scenarios.
Another important feature of the SRO program is TIP411, a service that makes it easy for students to contact SROs anonymously to report a crime or suspicious behavior on their campus or in the community. Since its implementation in 2013, the program has been a resounding success. From the time school ended last May, SROs have logged more than two thousand communications with students through TIP411.
Since 2015, the McKinney P.D. has hosted a summer Teen Academy for MISD middle school students that gives them an inside look at all facets of law enforcement while engaging students in leadership and teamwork activities. For some students it’s a way to test the waters of law enforcement and find out if the high school criminal justice program is for them. Others come to the academy out of curiosity. For all, it offers another opportunity for SROs to connect with students in a meaningful way.
“The whole purpose of this academy is to take some of the good kids that are in our schools and make them better over the summer,” said Sergeant Dave Rodriguez in 2015. Rodriguez supervised the SRO unit for five years and played a significant role in the the Teen Academy and the NASRO recognition. “Hopefully, they’ll take away some leadership attributes from our academy and put those to work in our campuses.”
Last spring, the district and the police department began the year-long process to apply for the NMA designation and received notification in February that the program would be honored in June in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the NASRO National Conference as one of a small number agencies to be recognized.
“We really are happy with where the SRO program is,” said Cunningham. “With any program or department there is always room for ongoing improvement, and that’s definitely our outlook. But, I think this award just adds public recognition to what we already knew—that we have great SROs who are highly trained and care about kids. And, ultimately that’s who this is for and the reason we all do it.”
Shane Mauldin is the MISD Communications Coordinator.