The School Resource Officer program in Rutherford County was started nearly 30-years ago in 1993. The program began under former long-time Sheriff Truman Jones after learning about similar practices in other states.
In Rutherford County, the SRO program started with a total of five Sheriff’s Deputies in five different schools. 29-Years later, there are now SRO’s in all 50 of the Rutherford County Schools (brick and mortar schools, as there is one virtual school in our district, which means there are 51-RC Schools). Rutherford County Schools hold a student population of over 50-thousand students.
As the new school year kicked off earlier this month, School Resource Officers were in each county school helping students adjust to a new school year.
To highlight a few of the officers in our local schools, Lascassas Elementary School showed their appreciation of SRO Chad Dodson and his stuffed dog, Pancake, with a special handmade sign at the school entrance.
Rockvale Middle School Principal Dr. Kelly Newberry and SRO Barry Jones shared the mic during one of the first school functions of the school year last week.
SRO William Victor welcomed students to Roy Waldron Elementary School in La Vergne while SRO Sgt. Dustin Cox showed his support of the Rams at Thurman Francis arts Academy in Smyrna.
SRO Matt Vaughn says he is ready to mentor students at Holloway High School and SRO Leighann Ruggles spent one of her first days back decorating her office door with “Toy Story” characters to introduce herself to the La Vergne Lake Elementary School students. SRO Ramy Ibrahim teamed up with the school mascot, J.C. Cougar, to meet students at his school.
Looking back to what gave spark to the idea of placing law enforcement officers in schools, the first school to implement an SRO program was in 1951. That first program started operations in Flint Michigan 71-years ago. By 2015, over 75% of schools across the country with 1,000 or more students implemented an SRO program.
Despite the growth of schools implementing a School Resource Officer plan, only eight U.S. states have specific laws regarding such programs in schools. That said, the lack of specific laws mandating or outlining an SRO program gives school districts the freedom to form their own security protocols for having law enforcement officers in their schools at the local level.
Because School Resource Officer programs are costly, some states looked for new ways to protect children within school systems across the country. In 2016, one state passed a bill to allow for retired police officers to work as School Resource Officers, as long as they are no older than 65 and they applied to work in the schools within 3-years of their retirement. The state that has laws for retired officers working SRO positions mandates one condition… that they cannot receive any benefits while working full-time hours. That state - - New Jersey.
Prior to New Jersey voting to allow retired officers to work in their schools, a special study took place between 2013 and 2014. The end result of the study gave school districts more options on who they can hire to work within their school districts. Since the 2016 bill was passed in New Jersey, several school districts made changes to further protect students, with the most recent change being made earlier this summer.
In June of this year, the Middleton, New Jersey School Board decided to utilize their options under the bill that passed in 2016, voting to hire retired police officers to work in their 16-schools as SRO’s. The vote equaled an end to their current SRO staff of “Off-Duty Police Officers” working in their schools. Starting next month (September of 2022), retired law enforcement officers will replace the Middleton Police Department’s off-duty officers that are currently working in Middleton Schools, according to the Board of Education in Middletown, New Jersey.
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