FAIRFAX, Va. — As students in Virginia’s largest school district return to classes, the security officers charged with keeping children and staff safe have had their job description clarified.
In July, the Fairfax County School Board approved a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the county school system and its police department, for the School Resource Officer — or SRO — program.
“It helps better clarify the relationship between our SRO officers and our school administration officials, to make sure we really understand each other’s roles and responsibilities,” said Superintendent Scott Brabrand, standing outside Fairfax County High School, as students arrived for their first day of school.
Brabrand and Police Chief Edwin Roessler drafted the agreement after receiving community input. A total of 51 county police officers serve as SROs in county middle, secondary and high schools.
“They separate their effort to focus on safety and security in our schools, and not getting involved with administrative tasks that would get kids unnecessarily involved with law enforcement,” said Brabrand.
According to the MOU, “SROs shall not be involved with the enforcement of school rules or disciplinary infractions that are not violations of law.”
“Punishment is the realm of school officials,” said Brabrand. “We just need to make sure that their role is clearly distinguishable from a school administration official.”
The agreement also spells out that SROs will not be tasked with checking on the immigration status of school children.
“FCPD officers are not agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and as such they shall not participate in any requests for assistance that is not of a criminal nature within the FCPS,” according to the document.
Brabrand said the SRO program began shortly after the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado: “That horrible, horrible tragedy that made us all reassess security in our schools.”
Since then, SROs have “done wonderful things, formed strong relationships with kids and the community.”
“This MOU makes much, much more clear the distinction between school officials, and SROs, who are there to ensure the safety and security of kids,” said Brabrand.
Under the agreement, police and school officials will continue to collaborate throughout the school year, to ensure the plan is being followed.