Date of Award

12-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Major

Educational Administration

Major Professor

Vincent A. Anfara

Committee Members

Thomas N. Turner, Gary C. Ubben, Neal E. Shover

Abstract

The safety of school children is on the forefront of American’s minds. Recent sporadic shooting of innocent children while they were in the care of school officials is once again raising concerns about the level of safety and security on school campuses. It is apparent that it is increasingly difficult to protect these children while they are at school and it is almost impossible for school administrators to do this alone. It is essential that community leaders, school officials, and school communities acknowledge the necessity of intervention programs to ensure that school campuses are safe and secure. One such intervention already in place in schools nationwide is the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. This intervention places a uniformed police officer on the school campus to assist with safety, security issues, and law enforcement issues.

This study focused on four SROs assigned to four middle schools in one rural school district in Eastern Tennessee. The focus of this study was to develop an understanding of the roles of an SRO, based on perceptions from the SROs and the school administrators, in the middle school setting. This study employed an exploratory, multi-site case study design. The data collection procedures included semi-structured interviews, reviewing various documents, and field notes from observations.

The data revealed that while the SROs were executing their required duties to provide a safe and secure school setting, other unintended roles appeared that further enhanced the learning environment. These unintended benefits allow the SRO to develop relationships, allow them to detect problems earlier, and provide the SRO opportunities to address these problems before they become dangerous situations. The data revealed some issues with the lack of training and policy conflicts that created problems with decisions made in a timely manner. Consequently, the use of the SRO and their effectiveness could have been minimized or compromised. School administrators are the school leaders, they control whether the SRO program is fully implemented or is merely utilized for law enforcement matters. It is essential that the principals and SROs have a clear understanding of each other’s roles in order to jointly lead the way to provide a safe and secure school setting.

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