BOSTON — A model memorandum of understanding (MOU) governing the role of school resource officers (SROs) in Massachusetts schools was released today by 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, MOUs made between school districts and police departments must provide new details about the roles and responsibilities of SROs in state schools. These MOUs must ensure that SROs do not take the place of appointed school disciplinarians, enforcers of school regulations, or school-based mental health providers. The new law ensures that SROs 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 AG Healey. “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. “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. “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 MOU describes the process for selecting the SRO, the roles of the SRO and school administrators in responding to student misbehavior, information sharing between the SRO and school personnel, and SRO training requirements. The MOU 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 MOU.
The full text of the model MOU for police departments and school districts is available here.
In the AG’s Office, this matter was handled by Angela Brooks and Abigail Taylor, both of the AG’s Child and Youth Protection Unit.
Statements of Support
David E. Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney
“The Model School Resource Officer MOU is a good starting point for building collaborations with schools, law enforcement, and other community partners. SROs are vital to safe and healthy schools. This model agreement protects students’ privacy rights, sets high standards for well-trained SROs, and establishes practical guidelines for keeping schools safe. I salute the work of the Attorney General’s Office, EOPSS and DESE, in creating a document which fosters communication and develops the foundation for keeping schools safe while maintaining vibrant learning environments.”
Chief Brian Kyes, President, Massachusetts Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association
“The work of SROs is vitally important to students and schools. When an SRO program is built on trust and a mutual commitment to fostering a positive school climate where all kids can learn, individual students and public safety as a whole can benefit. That is why I am proud to support this model MOU, which will assist districts in implementing a balanced, common sense approach that complies with the state’s new SRO MOU requirements. I look forward to working with Superintendent Mary Bourque of the Chelsea Public Schools to adopt this model MOU for our community. Together we can make sure that all students in Chelsea and across Massachusetts feel safe, welcomed, and supported.”
Thomas Scott, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
“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.”
Honorable Amy L. Nechtem, Chief Justice, Massachusetts Juvenile Court
“Well-designed SRO programs that serve to enhance safety while keeping youth in school and out of court, when possible, are consistent with the Juvenile Court's mission of safeguarding children and supporting opportunities for them to thrive in the community. I am grateful to Attorney General Maura Healey and to her team for their commitment to youth evidenced in this model MOU. I expect that this important collaboration will provide clear guidance to our school and law enforcement partners as they work to help our youth succeed and productively stay in school and out of our courts.”
Mary Bourque, Superintendent, Chelsea Public Schools
“As the Superintendent of the Chelsea Public Schools, I work every day to ensure that kids have an opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive, fair, and equitable environment. This model MOU for school resource officer programs will help Chelsea and school districts across Massachusetts do this important work, by creating clear guidelines for SRO selection, school administrator and SRO roles and responsibilities, information sharing, and training. The MOU will also help ensure that we comply with both the letter and the spirit of the new law. Along with Chief Brian Kyes of the Chelsea Police Department, I am eager to implement this MOU for our students, educators, administrators, and the full school community.”
Daniel Zivkovich, Executive Director, Municipal Police Training Committee
“School resource officers provide a critical service to the community by serving as role models and mentors to students and by helping to provide safety and security to the school campus. But it is critical that the SRO’s role be clearly defined to avoid role confusion and help to assure the SRO’s success. That is the value of this MOU template: It provides a framework for that role clarity and for the related discussions regarding how to best utilize an SRO.”
Lisa Thurau, Executive Director, Strategies for Youth
“Strategies for Youth (SFY) salutes the Attorney General’s Office for developing this model MOU. It provides comprehensive, straight-forward, legal guidelines for the relationship between schools and law enforcement and helps promote the adoption of de-escalation strategies and alternatives to arrest. We believe this MOU should be a national model for structuring the relationships between schools and law enforcement to protect and ensure youth have the necessary protections and opportunities to complete their education.”
Rachel Gunther, Associate Director, Youth on Board
“Youth on Board and Boston Student Advisory Council are proud to endorse this model MOU. As youth advocates for SRO MOU legislation incorporated into the criminal justice reform bill, we understand the importance of clearly defined roles and responsibilities for SROs, of safe and supportive school environments, and of keeping students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system whenever possible. We are excited to see this MOU implemented in schools across Massachusetts.”
Sana Fadel, Interim Executive Director, Citizens for Juvenile Justice
“Students should not be arrested and sent to court for minor misbehavior in school. Children of color and children with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to arrest compared to their peers with similar behavior. The recently enacted criminal justice reform law and this model MOU will clarify the line between school safety and school discipline and will encourage schools to reconsider a law enforcement response in cases where offering support to students is more appropriate. We are hopeful that this MOU is a strong starting point to prevent a school-to-prison pipeline for Massachusetts students.”
Phil Kassel, Executive Director, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
“Consistent with legislative intent expressed in the recently enacted criminal justice reform bill, this MOU will help to ensure that minor acts of school misconduct are not criminalized but instead are handled by school staff, who are in the best position to make correcting misbehavior part of the educational process.”
Tammy Mello, Executive Director, Children’s League of Massachusetts
“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.”