Article for OSROA.org Magazine
SRO Teaching Topics in the K-12 Classroom
School Resource Officers are often asked to present a variety of law enforcement-related topics in the classroom. One of the goals of the SRO program is to build rapport with students at all grade levels. We want to show students that SROs are friendly and approachable and not simply a badge. The opportunity to go into the classrooms goes beyond the DARE and GREAT curriculums, and is only limited by the willingness of the district to allow the SRO to interact with the students. I reach out to the staff to let them know that I am available for a wide-range of topics that are timely and appropriate for all grade levels.
As an example, at the elementary level, I read a book entitled Officer Buckle and Gloria. This is a great way to introduce the SRO to younger students and to begin the conversation of what role an SRO plays in the school. Career days or discussions, talking about military time or presenting a lesson on local government and civil servants are other opportunities that an SRO can become part of the classroom. Throughout the year, various student recognition assemblies are held providing opportunities for the SRO to interact with students and parents.
At the middle school and high school levels, I am often asked to present in nearly all content area classrooms. Health classes provide the biggest opportunities for interaction with students at these grade levels. Each year students will see drug display cases, impairment goggles during “Eye and Vision” labs, discuss alcohol and its affects, DEA Schedules, dating violence, texting and driving, sexting consequences and social media. Social Studies classes allow presentations on search & seizure, due process, local government, and driving laws.
Science classes are great for crime scene discussions including DNA, blood and evidence collection techniques. RADAR/LIDAR, Doppler and accident reconstruction can be discussed in math classrooms as well. English classes are great environments for discussing report writing skills, public speaking, and being a responsible online citizen when it comes to social media and emails. All of these opportunities can answer the “When will I ever use this?” question that often comes up in high school classrooms.
The high school principal also allows me to participate in a building-wide assembly on the first day of school to share a brief reminder on sexting laws and potential criminal issues students could face throughout their school career. In the Spring prior to Prom, the SRO plays an integral part in an anti-drinking campaign.
During the summer months, I participate in various events for both the school and the police department. The Ohio State University, through the county extension office, allows me to present during 4-H camp week a drug awareness program. Those attending the camp are typically leaders in their respective schools and they represent nearly all of the county districts.
I am also invited to an annual car show held at an area restaurant. Our drug case, impairment goggles, spike strip and other tools in our vehicle are displayed for all to see. I pass out many DARE related items to the children if they stop by the car which allows me to reach out and talk to their parents about community trends and issues.
The school district also participates in the summer Safety Town program. During Safety Town week, I present proper 911 usage, Stranger Danger, what to do if they get lost, avoiding drugs and other police related topics. Fairs, festivals, and parades, bike safety presentations and other events that may occur in your local parks or businesses throughout the year are great places to interact with families. Be sure to participate in your school’s opening day staff meetings and student open houses. These are invaluable for beginning to build rapport with students, parents, and staff.
Teaching safety and life skills does not end when the school year is over. My hope is that you can add some of these ideas to fill your calendar with events throughout the year. If you are not utilizing technology, I encourage you to learn how to use presentation software, iPad apps, Smart Boards, mobile device and other tools to reach students.
‘Officer Adam’ Gongwer, with Ontario, OH Police since 2003, is in his 7th year as SRO. He also currently serves as OSROA Central Regional Representative. A special thanks to Ontario School’s Curt McVicker for his many years of mentoring and advice.