Frequently Asked Questions About School Resource Officers

How FCPD and FCPS Partner for Student Safety

 

Q: What is a School Resource Officer (SRO)?

A: A sworn police officer assigned to a Fairfax County Public School (FCPS).

 

Q: Are SROs employed by Fairfax County Public Schools?

A: No, by the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD).

Q: Who supervises the SROs?

A: SROs are directly supervised by police sergeants who report to a first lieutenant / School Liaison Commander.

Q: Can I speak or meet with the SRO at my school?

A: Yes.

 

Q: Can I speak or meet with the supervisor of the SRO at my school?

A: Yes, however SRO supervisors are not assigned to a particular school.  It may require scheduling an appointment.

Q: If I have a concern about a SRO, who should I contact?

A: The SRO sergeant or a school administrator.

Q: If I want to report information to the SRO, who should I contact?

A: The SRO is available during school hours. If the information requires immediate police response and is after hours/on the weekend call the FCPD non-emergency number (703) 691-2131.  For emergencies dial 911.

Q: Which schools have School Resource Officers in Fairfax County?

A: Every middle school, high school and secondary school.

 

Q: How many SROs in each school?

A: Each HS and MS have one SRO, with the exception of Robinson, Hayfield and Lake Braddock Secondary Schools. They each have two.

 

Q: What are the roles and responsibilities of SROs?

A: Primary responsibility of the SRO is to maintain the safety of students and faculty, provide a safe and positive learning environment and to promote mutual respect between law enforcement, school security staff, school administrative staff, students and their families.

Q: What else do SROs do?

A: SROs assist school administrators in developing school crisis, emergency management and response plans. They work with administrators in problem-solving to prevent crime and promote safety in the school environment. They also participate in educational opportunities (driver training, drug awareness).

 

Q: Are SROs involved with student discipline?

A: No, SROs are prohibited from any involvement in student discipline. But they may attend disciplinary hearings (per the MOU) at the request of FCPS administration.

Q: Who is responsible for school discipline?

A: School administrators, to include school principals, teachers, and school security staff. They have exclusive responsibility for school discipline.

Q: Do SROs help to protect my children from gangs?

A: Yes. In addition to being a deterrent, they also provide gang prevention education and awareness to students.

Q: What kind of training do SROs receive to ensure they are able to interact successfully with our increasingly diverse student population?

A: Officers selected for the SRO program shall, within the first 6 months after receiving their assignments, and at least every two years thereafter, receive the following training after being selected for the program:

  • Mental Health Specific Training and Crisis Intervention Training in accordance with established and certified state standards.
  • Disability awareness training.
  • Implicit bias/racial bias training outlining attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. 
  • Restorative justice techniques and the Alternative Accountability Program as outlined in General Order 605, Juvenile Procedures.
  • Cultural Competency Training that is provided to FCPS staff.

Q: My child is autistic. Do SROs receive training to interact successfully with students with disabilities?

A: All FCPD officers have been trained in autism awareness by Autism first trained trainers.

 Q: What is the difference between a School Resource Officer and a School Safety and Security Specialist/Assistant?  

A: SRO is a sworn police officer with the authority to arrest. A School Safety and Security Specialist /Assistant are FCPS employees who assists with school safety and security operations and they do not have law enforcement authority.

 
Q: Who employs School Safety and Security Specialists/Assistants?

A: FCPS, they are hired by the principal and are part of the school staff.

 Q: What are the roles and responsibilities of School Safety and Security Specialists/Assistants?

A: To manage and deploy safety and security programs to include; crisis management plans and drills.   

Q: Are School Safety and Security Specialists/Assistants involved with student discipline?

A: No, however, they are members of the school staff.

Q: Who refers matters to SROs?

A: Anyone can refer a matter to SROs to include students, staff, parents, and other community members. However, SROs only deal with criminal matters, not school discipline or administrative matters.  

Q: What kinds of student information do SROs have access to?

A: SROs may be provided student information as needed to carry out their duties related to the school environment. SROs may have access to directory information for all students in the school division. SROs may have access to information on students in their assigned schools that include directory information and additional items needed to carry out their duties (such as class schedules) as approved by the school administrator.


Q: Does having an armed police officer in the school mean that my child is more likely to be arrested, go to jail, and get a criminal record?

A: No. SROs primary focus is to maintain safety in the schools for all, with an emphasis on Restorative Justice Programs (e.g. Alternative Accountability Program) and to avoid arrest situations while balancing the rights of victims. We recognize that students make mistakes and we want to help them to correct their mistakes and achieve success in their schools and communities.
 

Q: What is restorative justice?

A: Restorative justice is a concept that recognizes juveniles will make mistakes but also need to be held accountable.  Programs like the Alternative Accountability Program (AAP) provide an avenue for juveniles to avoid entering the criminal justice system while still accepting responsibility for their actions.

 

Q: How is FCPS implementing restorative justice in public schools?

A: Restorative justice practice is a philosophy based on a set of principles for responding to harm and wrongdoing that is victim-centered and focuses on offender accountability to those who were harmed, and to the laws or rules that were broken. Restorative justice is a formal process facilitated by trained, skilled facilitators that brings together those impacted by wrongdoing to discuss the incident, understand who has been affected and to create an agreement for reparation of harm. Historically, Restorative justice principles were used to address crimes within the justice system. The principles have now been used in schools with positive results. Within this philosophy, wrongdoing is viewed as a violation of a person or community as well as a violation of a discipline code or public law.

 

Q: Do SROs have the authority to detain and interview students?

A: Yes, for criminal investigations only

Q: What rights do students have when they are detained or under a custodial arrest?

A:  The same rights as anyone. Unless exigent circumstances exist (.e.g. crime of active violence in progress which threatens lives in the school), the SRO shall take immediate steps to contact parent(s) or guardian(s) before any questioning of a student about possible involvement in criminal activity. The SRO shall fully inform both the student and legal guardian of the entitlement of Miranda warnings before any questioning takes place. SRO’s shall seek the consent authorization (approval or denial) of the legal guardian before conducting any interview of the student.  

 

Q. What rights do parents or legal guardians have when their child is questioned, searched or detained by an SRO?

A. SROs are required to contact parents prior to custodial interviews. The parent, who will be advised of Miranda at that time, has the right to deny their child being questioned by the PD. However, due to safety concerns, searches based on Probable Cause will not be delayed.

 

Q: Who will be present at the custodial interview of the students?

A: The SRO shall make reasonable attempts to have the legal guardian present when fully informing them of their Miranda warnings. Additionally, the SRO shall through conversation with the legal guardian, determine if the student has the cognitive ability to submit to questioning.

 

Q: Will school administrators be present when students are questioned in relation to a suspected crime?

A: Typically no, but there may be an exception.

 

Q: Do SROs have the authority to arrest students?

A: Yes, they are sworn law enforcement officers.

Q: Under what circumstances will SROs arrest students?

A: By law, SROs are permitted to arrest for violations of state and county codes. However, they are encouraged to use various diversion options (AAP, court diversion, oral counseling-- or allowing the school to handle administratively). Victims also have rights though, so if they want to move forward with court action, the student will be charged.

 

Q: Do SROs help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to find and arrest undocumented students?

A: No

 

Q: Under what circumstances will SROs provide assistance to ICE?

A: FCPD officers are not agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and as such they shall not participate in any request for assistance that is not of a criminal nature within the FCPS (General Order 601, VIII, C).

 

Q. Does ICE have access to any database containing contact information about students and their families, either as part of student records or as part of law enforcement records developed about students? If so, what steps can families take to ensure this access doesn't occur?

A. No

 

Q: Under what circumstances can SRO search a student’s person or property?

A: Any search initiated by SROs or other law enforcement officers shall be based upon probable cause and, when required, a search warrant shall be obtained.

 

Q: Can an administrator request an SRO to search a student’s person or property for administrative reasons?

A: No

 

Q. How can the public access data about arrests, interrogations, searches, and other SRO activity? What demographic characteristics are tracked?

A. FCPD issues an annual report regarding the numbers of crimes, arrests, etc. This can be located on the FCPD website.

 

Q. How much County/Police funding and Public Schools funding is dedicated to the SRO program?

A. The FCPD funds all SRO positions to include the three SRO sergeants. FCPS reimburses FCPD for the position of School Liaison Commander.

 

 

Q. Can I introduce my child with an IEP/504/disability to the SRO at the school to help the SRO understand my child or let the SRO know my child has a disability?

A. Yes, Parents are encouraged to meet their SRO and establish a working relationship.

 

Q. If I can't be there, can I require my child's case manager or special education teacher be present to support my child with a 504/IEP/disability during any questioning/interrogation or searching?

A. You may be present during questioning. However, for safety reasons, a search based on probable cause will not be delayed.