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School Resource Officers and your child: preventing problems

Did you know that School Resource Officers (SROs) may know nothing whatsoever about your child with autism or even about autism?  Did you also know that your child with autism could be arrested at school and charged with assault?  Being proactive and connecting with the SRO at your child’s school could be vitally important for children who have meltdowns that could result in the SRO being called for assistance.  I don’t want to frighten or shock parents of young children, whose meltdowns can easily be managed by picking them up and removing them to a safe place.  However, when a child is 100+ pounds and 5 feet tall, those physical meltdowns become a real problem.  Obviously, we want to work very hard to avoid meltdowns….but sometimes they are unavoidable.  Part of being proactive involves connecting with the school’s SRO and making sure they know about your child:  what works, what doesn’t, how to calm him/her when agitated, etc. 

There are specific rules about how much and what information the school is permitted to share with SROs, which are covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the Policies Governing Programs and Services for Children with Disabilities.  Basically, the school can release information to SROs without the parent’s permission if the SRO is considered a school official (meaning the school pays part of the SRO’s salary and the school system has a contract with the police/sheriff’s department).  If the SRO is NOT considered a school official, then the school must have the parent’s written permission.  In an emergency situation, involving” serious threat to health or safety”, the school has permission to release relevant information without a signed release.

Good news: the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has Claire Greer, Autism Consultant; Claire has been traveling across NC to train SROs on autism and how to help prevent and reduce violence in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (check out the autism resources on the DPI website!).  She is only one person, however.  So, we parents need to be proactive and talk with the School Resource Officers.  Perhaps they should be part of the IEP meetings when discussing Behavior Intervention Plans or behavior goals.  Maybe we need to meet with them privately and introduce them to our children, help with autism awareness at the schools, and/or sign releases for schools to release information to the SRO.

Let me know if you have other suggestions to share with parents and I’ll post them here.

2 Responses

  1. Very good suggestions! A few years ago when my son was feeling down, he asked his SRO to shoot him with his gun. The SRO didn’t take it seriously so he did not contact me or anyone in administration. This should have been handled differently for ANY child making such a statement, let alone a child with autism. So as much education as can be provided, the better.

    • That is amazing! I sure would want someone to contact ME if my son said that. I’ve heard of situations where the school overreacted to comments a child made, involving Social Services, etc.
      Thanks for reading and commenting–it’s always great to hear from other parents.

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