As I prepare to attend and present at the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) annual conference in August, I will be connecting domestic violence with what School Resource Officers (SROs) do in order to keep schools safe. Is there a relationship, and if so, what is it?
A School Resource Officer is a sworn local law enforcement officer, who is responsible for providing students a safe and comfortable environment at school. An SRO works as a link between law enforcement and the school, school administration, teachers, parents, and most important, students.
When children witness domestic violence at home, the emotions and behavioral problems are likely to be brought to school. Some signs that children may be living in a domestic violence household are physical complaints (stomachache or headache), tiredness (because of lack of sleep from staying up because of the violence), sadness, low self-esteem, difficulty paying attention in class, outbursts of anger, and bullying and aggression. Because SROs interact with students every day, they need to know these signs so that they can help and support the student.
So, what are some of the things that an SRO (or any school personnel) can do to help? First, the student needs to know about the SRO’s limits of confidentiality, because an SRO is a mandated reporter (someone who has to report to family services if they suspect child abuse or neglect). Then, the most important thing someone can do is listen. Let the student tell his or her story, but at the same time, don’t pressure the student to talk. The SRO should assure the student that they believe her or him, and validate the student’s feelings. Afterward, the SRO should check with the student’s teachers and see how he or she is doing in class, and then collaborate with the school social worker or counselor on next steps to get the child help.
Domestic violence requires intervention from a network of people. School Resource Officers are an important part of that network, because they are at schools to keep the students and the schools safe. School may be the only place many child witnesses have to be free of violence.
And sometimes, a trusted adult who will listen to a child is the first step for the child to get help.