Ohio takes closer look at school resource officers in wake of Florida shooting

Posted at 12:48 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 19:51:27-05

In the aftermath of last month's mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a proposed law would regulate who exactly can become a school resource officer in Ohio.

House Bill 318 would ensure all SROs are full officers who have completed at least 40 hours of specialized training to work in schools. 

State Rep. Sarah LaTourette, a Chesterland Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the law is necessary to define an SRO's role before asking Ohio to pay for installing more of them around the Buckeye State's districts.

"You can't fund what you can't define," she said.

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On Feb. 22, officials announced that school resource officer Deputy Scott Peterson never went inside to engage the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while the shooting was underway. Peterson has resigned.

President Donald Trump questioned the inaction of an armed officer who failed to stop the gunman who carried out the Florida massacre. Departing the White House, Trump told reporters that “when it came time to get in there and do something,” Peterson “didn’t have the courage or something happened.”

Kari Parsons, head of the Ohio School Resource Officers Association, told the Plain Dealer that SROs should respond to an active shooter in a school the same way any other law enforcement officer would.

School resource officers should arrest violators, confront suspicious behaviors, recognize danger and respond according to their training to will keep schools safer, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police wrote in a statement to WCPO news partner The Dayton Daily News.

“In addition to improving security, SROs build relationships between students and law enforcement, provide a positive role model and serve as guest instructors in classrooms on issues such as drug addiction,” the union wrote.

Parsons told the Plain Dealer they have 721 SROs in their association and that perhaps another 100 may work throughout Ohio. She said that about 70 percent of Ohio's 614 school districts have at least one SRO, although very few districts are covered full time.

Around Dayton, Ohio, SROs are a fixture in many schools. A 2015 Dayton Daily News survey of 22 local school districts found that most large districts have local police regularly serving as SROs in their buildings. Several other districts without SROs cite an open-door policy with their police departments.

Dayton-area schools take a variety of approaches, largely depending on the size of the district. The 10 largest districts in the area all have school resource officers or security officer programs, according to the 2015 survey of district officials.