The Responsibilities of School Security Personnel
Among the most important responsibilities are maintaining a visible presence and building trust. Another important responsibility includes touring the campus frequently. High-risk areas that have been identified—such as locker rooms, bathrooms, isolated hallways or stairways, portable classrooms, playing fields, other out-buildings, and/or isolated areas of the building grounds—are potential trouble spots.
- By Ron Woodruff
- March 22, 2022
The duties and responsibilities of School Security Officers (SSOs) are complex and wide-reaching. In this article, we will explore what these duties and responsibilities are and why they are so important for school safety. Effective School Security Officers employ best practices to help prevent and maintain school safety.
School Security Officers are generally defined as those non-commissioned individuals employed by a school district, either as classified or contracted employees, to manage safety and security programs on school campuses. School Resource Officers (SROs), by contrast, are defined as commissioned law enforcement officers typically employed by law enforcement agencies and assigned to work in schools as part of an agreement with a school district. Whether your district employs an SRO or an SSO, the material presented below will assist you in learning the roles, duties and responsibilities of school security personnel and assist the administration in supervising their activities.
Among the most important responsibilities are maintaining a visible presence and building trust. Officers should maintain professionalism at all times, being friendly and impartial, but fair to all without judgment. Effective officers understand the nuances of the job and are capable of reacting at any moment to unpredictable events.
Another important responsibility includes touring the campus frequently. High-risk areas that have been identified—such as locker rooms, bathrooms, isolated hallways or stairways, portable classrooms, playing fields, other out-buildings, and/or isolated areas of the building grounds—are potential trouble spots. By varying the route, it creates unpredictability, thus strengthening the School Security Officer’s effectiveness. Checking doors and windows for good repair and noting any security breaches on campus, as well as providing security during athletic and other after-school activities, are vital. Officers identify and plan for hazards in the parking lots and other areas of the campus, as well.
Being present at a variety of events is another effective deterrent to warding off potential problems. Officers should be visible during student lunches, breaks, assemblies, and passing periods between classes. This helps reduce problems during times when students are more likely to congregate.
Officers establish contact with students and enforce school rules. Determining those who have legitimate business from intruders who may be intent on causing harm or disruption is of paramount importance. Regular communication from office staff and educators keeps the officers current with the pulse of what is going on in the school. Officers also brief school personnel on current security concerns and trends.
An essential responsibility is writing incident reports in a way that is consistent with the methodology established by the school/district security department. These reports document action taken during and after an incident or crisis. Photographs further detailing the incident are often included in the report. This helps protect all involved: the district, officer, staff, and students.
The security department frequently works with law enforcement and fire departments to establish sound safety and security practices. Additionally, they provide security-related training to all school staff, students, and parents. If district and judicial proceedings are needed, officers provide testimony as directed by the security supervisor or the court. This is one of the crucial reasons why good report writing is invaluable.
Patrol procedures outline the responsibilities and duties of the security personnel. Patrol procedure will be determined by the security department policy and the job description. Need for patrol function can change daily and can be very unpredictable. There is no such thing as “routine patrol.” As a School Security Officer, you must be prepared to respond with the knowledge, skills, equipment, and ability to handle all security-related situations.
Know Your District!
- Know the building you work in
- Know the other buildings in your district
- Know the surrounding property
- Know what others do
- Know your students
- Know your staff
Know the Building You Work In!
- All exterior doors (public, staff, classroom)
- All storage rooms and closets
- All custodial areas
- All restrooms (student and staff)
- All fire-alarm pull stations
- All alarmed areas
- Know the alarm codes
- All utility mains, shutoffs, distribution points
Know the Other Buildings in Your District
- Know where they are
- Know how to get there
- Know their general layout
- Know where the alarm panels are
- Know who to call if you need codes to another building
Know the Surrounding Area!
- Major roads, side streets, alleys
- Nearby irrigation canals, creeks, rivers
- Local hangouts: fast-food places, shops, neighborhood stores, “kid hangouts”
- Know the neighbors
- Safety hazards (both natural and man-made)
Know What Others Do!
- Other security officers’ responsibilities
- Law enforcement response
- Fire department response
- Contract services
- Other districts
Know Your Students!
- Know your student body officials
- Know the popular kids
- Know the unpopular kids
- Know what gangs are in your schools
- Know who the gang members are
- Get to know the “loners”
- Learn what makes them feel safe at school
- Teach them that they can trust you
Know Your Staff!
- Know who the “power” group is
- Learn who will support you
- Learn who you can trust and confide in
- Know who are the “challenging” staff
- Learn their backgrounds
- Earn their support and trust, not demand it
TYPES OF PATROL
On-Site Patrol (Routine Patrol)
- Hallways, restrooms, locker rooms, etc.
- Lunch room, break rooms
- Empty classrooms, offices, staff rooms
- Gymnasium, pool, theater
- Parking lots
- Playing fields
- Off-campus parking areas
- Local convenience stores
- Fast food establishments
- Off-campus gathering areas
- Other schools
- Be in good physical condition
- Wear the proper shoes
- Wear clothes appropriate for the season
- Be prepared for emergencies
- Don’t “over-extend” your patrol area
- ALWAYS have communications
- Know where you are
- Be in good physical condition
- Have good equipment (bike, helmet, shoes, clothing, etc.)
- Always have communications
- DON’T GET TOO FAR FROM HELP!
- Don’t use it all the time
- Let others know where you will be
- Always use a marked vehicle
- NEVER ASSUME YOU ARE THE POLICE!
- Make sure local law enforcement knows who you are and what you are driving
- If possible, have communication with local law enforcement
- Use to travel between school, special events, parking lot management
Electronic Video Patrol
- KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT!
- Use it when needed, not all the time
- Target “hotspots”
- Have electronic video recording available
- Understand “chain of evidence” where video recording is concerned
- Understand privacy issues with regards to video recordings of students and events
CHARACTERISTICS OF A PRO-ACTIVE PATROL OFFICER
The modern patrol officer is assertive in his or her pursuit of maintaining a safe school environment. School Security Officers should seek to know everyone and everything that is happening within their area. It is a good practice to be nosy. School Security Officers should take and provide ownership of their assigned area. It is important to be a good communicator, as well as treat people with respect, no matter who they are or what they have done.
Knowing the Area
An officer’s expert knowledge of the area will allow for recognizing what is normal and what is out of place. Knowledge of the area affords the officer the ability to quickly respond to calls, allowing them to pick the best direction from which to respond, maximizing every tactical advantage.
An officer needs to be able to relate to people of all races and creeds. Being mindful of various traditions, customs, and backgrounds of the school population is crucial to providing adequate service and helps to maintain a positive school climate.
Preventative patrol means seeking out conditions that breed crime in order to deter it from happening. Checking high-crime areas frequently serves as a deterrent to possible threats and violence. By providing a visible presence, officers help to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for all.
A key tool in preventative patrol is making recommendations for safety improvements on campus. Verifying that there are no pockets of darkness throughout the building using proper lighting, installing working security cameras that are pointed at high-risk areas, and ensuring that there are no hidden or blocked points of view will all assist in visibility. It is also a good idea to have alarms clearly posted throughout the building.
Be Systematically Unsystematic
Avoid having a noticeably predictable routine. Give the impression of omnipresence, and find discrete vantage points to make observations.
Educators, law enforcement, and our communities work together to ensure safe and healthy schools and have a common expectation that a basic level of school security is in place regardless of a school’s size or location. In addition to security staffing, there is an expectation that effective strategies are in place to address the safety and security of students and staff. A proactive approach to violence prevention, the use of evidence-based practices, and clear roles and responsibilities for security personnel are the foundations for an effective program. It is our hope that the information presented here provides the necessary tools, background and knowledge to administer a school’s security program.
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2022 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.