Maryland SRO FAQs – and Answers
A lot of questions about Maryland School Resource Officers (SROs), their many responsibilities, and the requirements of the Safe to Learn Act of 2018 are sent our way. Today we are happy to answer some of them.
Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions that we receive.
What is the Safe to Learn Act (STLA) of 2018?
The Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, which has been nationally recognized for its multidisciplinary approach, was enacted with the purpose of improving school safety. The law set aggressive Statewide standards for school safety while also addressing behavioral health needs of students.
The STLA required the State and local school systems to develop Behavioral Threat Assessment Model Policies, identify and report on the availability of mental health services for school-aged children, provide standardized SRO training, conduct school safety evaluations, and administer school safety grants.
Does the STLA require SROs in Maryland schools?
No. The law requires local school systems to have either an assigned SRO or provide adequate law enforcement coverage to each public school in Maryland.
Yet, the only law enforcement officers required to take Maryland SRO Training are SROs. More on that later.
What is an SRO?
For the first time in Maryland, the STLA defined an SRO. An SRO is a sworn law enforcement officer, as defined under § 3–101(e) of the Public Safety Article, who has been assigned to a school or schools in accordance with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the local law enforcement agency and the local school system. SROs, by definition, include members of the Baltimore City school police.
Those honored to carry the title SRO in Maryland benefit from holistic education and training specific to the unique, important, and varied roles that SROs fulfill in Maryland’s twenty-four diverse local school systems.
An SRO augments the diversity of resources that exist within a school community. Maryland SROs:
- Are assigned in accordance with a MOU;
- Participate in additional specialized training;
- Serve as part of the school community and work in partnership with school staff;
- Connect students with community resources; and
- Keep outside dangers from getting into their schools.
What sort of training do SROs receive?
In addition to the training SROs receive through local and state law enforcement agencies as required by the Public Safety Article, SROs are also required (by law) to participate in the week-long SRO training developed by MCSS in conjunction with subject matter experts in child development, emergency management, mental health, education, and law enforcement. Some of the topics covered in this intensive training include de-escalation, disability awareness, maintaining a positive school climate, constructive interactions with students, restorative practices, implicit bias, and disability and diversity awareness with specific attention to racial and ethnic disparities.
As mentioned earlier, individuals providing “adequate law enforcement coverage” to schools are not required by law to complete this required SRO training.
In addition to the SRO training, MCSS also offers training for school administrators and law enforcement supervisors to help them better understand the role and responsibility of SROs. More about these courses can be found here.
MCSS is developing additional training for SROs to give them an opportunity to continue to build their skill set as a dynamic resource within their school community.
How many public schools have SROs?
Within the 1,418 public schools surveyed in our latest report there are a total of 439 SROs; yet, only 328 are assigned full time to a school. The remaining serve as SROs for more than one school.
How do I find out more about our local SRO program?
Check with your local school system, police department, or sheriff’s office. Each local school system is required to have a link on their website that describes their local SRO program.
What if we want an SRO in our school?
Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (STLA) requires that all public schools throughout the state have either an assigned SRO or adequate local law enforcement coverage.
If your school doesn’t have an assigned SRO and you want it to, or if you are concerned that your SRO may be removed, speak with your school administrator, your local school superintendent, your local school board, and your local legislators.
What if we don’t want an SRO in our school?
Maryland’s impressive demographic and geographic diversity means that every school system and school within a school system is unique. The STLA does not set a state level requirement on which schools have assigned SROs.
Rather, the law allows for flexibility for each individual jurisdiction in Maryland to determine whether schools in the school system would benefit from an assigned SRO or if the school would be best served with “adequate coverage.”
What is “adequate coverage?”
Adequate coverage is not defined in the law and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to defining what “adequate coverage” is. Determining adequate coverage requires a discussion and agreement between the local school system and local law enforcement agencies that have primary jurisdiction over each educational facility.
Adequate coverage should be based upon established programs, practices, and MOUs that have been worked out between the local school system and local law enforcement. Jurisdictions typically consider the proximity to the closest first responders, student population size, and other available resources when determining adequate coverage.
A typical example of this type of coverage is having patrol officers or sheriff’s deputies, who are not SROs as defined by law, conduct safety checks of schools in their patrol area.
What is an MOU?
An MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is a written agreement between a local school system and a local law enforcement agency. An MOU establishes the goals of a local SRO program beyond what is expected in the traditional role of law enforcement. MOUs also set the boundaries for the SRO program by:
- Establishing roles and responsibilities;
- Setting clear guard rails for the handling of routine school discipline; and
- Outlining the process for SRO selection and assignments.
MOUs are collaborative and living documents. At the conclusion of each academic year and prior to the start of the next academic year, partners should evaluate any changes that might need to be made to the MOU.
Who pays for SROs?
It depends. Check with your local school system for how the SRO program is funded in your jurisdiction. Some SROs are paid through the local law enforcement agency budget, with no funding coming from the local school system’s budget. Sometimes SRO funding is shared between organizations. MCSS offers an annual SRO grant to local school systems and law enforcement agencies to assist their programs.