BOSTON – A model memorandum of understanding governing the role of school resource officers in Massachusetts schools was released today, September 5, by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In accordance with the sweeping criminal justice reform law enacted this April, the memorandum of understanding made between school districts and police departments must provide new details about the roles and responsibilities of Officers in state schools. These memorandum of understanding must ensure that Officers do not take the place of appointed school disciplinarians, enforcers of school regulations, or school-based mental health providers.
The new law ensures that Officers do not use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior, and restricts law enforcement action in response to certain school-based offenses.
“As we begin a new school year, I’m committed to helping every student learn and thrive in a safe and supportive environment,” said Healey, in a press release “We believe this guidance will help local law enforcement leaders work together to keep all students safe, in school, and treated fairly.”
“We will never forget the tragic images of school shootings that have taken place with alarming frequency across our nation,” said Secretary Daniel Bennett of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, in a media statement “No child or family should ever have to face the prospect of such horror, and through these agreements we are taking another step to reduce the risk that this could happen to a Massachusetts student.”
“School resource officers hold a unique position in a school setting and carry unique responsibilities,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said, in a statement “This MOU helps define how SROs can improve school safety while recognizing that many school discipline issues do not require the involvement of law enforcement.”
In accordance with the law, the model memorandum of understanding describes the process for selecting the Officers, the roles of the officer and school administrators in responding to student misbehavior, information sharing between the officer and school personnel, and officer training requirements.
The memorandum of understanding also includes provisions to help ensure compliance with several preexisting laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The AG’s Office, EOPSS, and DESE were joined by partners in law enforcement and education, as well as committed advocates for youth, juvenile justice, mental health, and disability, in developing this memorandum of understanding.
The full text of the model MOU for police departments and school districts is available here.
Thomas Scott, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents said in a statement “Among a superintendent’s most important jobs are to make sure that students are safe and have a full opportunity to participate in and complete school. This model MOU goes a long way toward both. It provides for meaningful collaboration between law enforcement and schools in selecting the right SRO for each district and making sure the SRO program is working as intended. It also creates clear guidance for school and law enforcement intervention in student misbehavior, which is crucial to ensuring that our kids are safe and that they’re not unnecessarily caught up in the juvenile justice system. MASS appreciated the opportunity to offer input on this MOU, and we look forward to helping to implement it across the state.”
Tammy Mello, Executive Director, Children’s League of Massachusetts, said “We are grateful to Attorney General Maura Healey and our friends and partners who have worked hard on creating a model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the School Resource Officer program. This model MOU will help promote positive relationships between law enforcement and youth, divert students from the criminal justice system, and at the same time, improve school safety. Clearly delineated roles and responsibilities for school resource officers and school personnel provide the opportunity to promote safe and supportive school environments that are critical to academic achievement. It will be crucial to the success of the program to ensure that annual reviews are conducted that will assess accomplishments, while also identifying and addressing areas for improvement.”