School Resource Officer (SRO) Program
Cooperation between law enforcement and schools is an important element of school safety. The School Resource Officer (SRO) Program places law enforcement officers (Deputy Sheriffs) in Louisa County Public Schools, to help create a safe and secure setting, with a focus on prevention and early intervention activities for the community’s youth. At its foundation, a successful program is community based, reflecting a comprehensive community focus that integrates law enforcement officers, including those assigned in the public schools, with the existing network of resources in the community.
In 2017, the Louisa County Public Schools Safe Schools Task Force made several recommendations to enhance school safety. One of the most significant recommendations involved the hiring of additional deputies as SROs. As a result, four deputies were selected and assigned as SROs in each elementary school for the 2018-19 academic year. Louisa became one of the only counties in the Commonwealth to have a law enforcement officer assigned to grades PK – 12 every day. Currently, there are seven SRO positions assigned to Louisa County Public Schools.
SROs are more than law enforcement officers in the schools. The schools are unique communities and as such, SROs fulfill three principle roles. These roles include:
First and foremost, SROs serve as law enforcement officers, whose primary purpose is to "keep the peace" so that students and teachers can focus on learning. SROs have the authority and duty to handle crimes and make arrests, when necessary. If appropriate, alternatives to prosecution may include counseling, deferment and/or school administrative action.
Informal Counselor and Community Liaison
SROs serve as informal counselors who provide guidance to students and act as a link to support services both inside and outside the school environment. The SRO is aware of community resources and contacts that can be helpful in solving many problems. Some of these community resources include mental health services, substance abuse assessment and treatment providers, child protective services, runaway shelters, domestic violence services, and family counseling agencies.
Law-related education is designed to teach students the fundamentals and skills needed to become responsible citizens. Law-related education teaches social competence, problem-solving skills (making good choices for the future), self-esteem, and reinforces high expectations for youth and positive peer norms. The cornerstone of law-related education is the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office Learn and Win (LAW) program. The LAW program is provided to students in grades PK through 12. In addition, SROs provide training and education to faculty and staff in areas such as critical incident response, gang awareness, and other topics of interest.
Underpinning all three roles, SROs serve as positive role models for many youth who may not be exposed to such role models in today’s society. Some ways the SRO acts as a positive role model include: setting limits by being clear about what is acceptable and unacceptable; setting an example; being honest; being consistent with students, staff, and parents; encouraging responsibility; and showing respect for students, faculty, and staff.
It is the policy of the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office to endorse and support through staffing the creation of positive interaction between law enforcement and the school community. This endeavor is a partnership between education and law enforcement, which supports a collaborative, problem solving approach to issues of crime and violence in schools.
- Adhere to the reporting requirements in Virginia law, specifically as outlined in Virginia Code 22.1-279.3:1(D).
- Assist in intervention projects such as drug prevention, including the Learn and Win (LAW) program and "at-risk" youth projects.
- Coordinate student activities that promote a safe school environment, and to serve as liaisons between schools and law enforcement.
- Cultivate positive relationships with students, strengthening each student’s understanding of good citizenship and accountability for his/her actions, and to allow SROs to serve as mediators for law enforcement/school-related problems.
- Foster an atmosphere of safety through the enforcement of criminal and traffic laws, and to provide the timely sharing of pertinent crime-related information between school and law enforcement personnel.
- Promote effective communication between the Sheriff’s Office and administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and youth of the school community.
- Promote citizen awareness of law enforcement efforts, to assure the peaceful operation of school-related programs, and to build support with students.
- Provide instruction for classes concerning the criminal justice system, law enforcement, and public safety.
- Provide assessments including crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) and early identification of high risk or criminal activity on school properties.
- Serve as a resource for violence reduction and avoidance for students.