Martin Sissac, Chief of Police for the Fontana Unified School District (California) discusses the role of school resource officers (SROs) as part of the educational process for students.
The Fontana Unified School District is one of 19 school districts in California that has a school police department that reports directly to the school board and superintendent. Chief Sissac views law enforcement officers in schools as having a unique opportunity to participate in the educational process, protect students, and prevent crime. He emphasizes that SROs should have the mindset that education and student welfare must have top priority. SROs focus on preventing harm to and from students to other students. This involves building relationships with students, teaching them, and mentoring them away from wrong choices and behaviors. In Fontana schools, SROS lead classroom lessons about drug use, bullying, traffic safety, and the use of social media, as well as other issues related to student safety and moral development. SROs can assist students in dealing with some of the social and emotional issues that kids experience daily, and when discipline is required, it must be constructive. Arresting or issuing a citation to students should always be a last option. Students must have confidence that they will be treated fairly when they engage in misconduct and receive sensitive guidance that is meant to help them contribute to their own and other students' educational development.