IRMO, S.C. – Many jobs sectors are struggling to hire people right now, and school resource officers, or SROs, are no different.
Schools around the nation are struggling to find people to protect students. There weren’t enough deputies to cover four schools in Lexington-Richland School District 5 in South Carolina, so the district is using a private security company to make up for it.
"We recognize they do not have the full training of an SRO, but I’d rather have armed security there than no one there," said Dr. Akil Ross, the district’s superintendent.
Why aren’t private security as ideal as SROs? Superintendent Ross says SROs go through special training to work with kids.
"How to deal with stress, how to deal with the social-emotional issues. And to work with those students," Ross said.
School districts in states like Oregon, New Mexico, Tennessee and Georgia reported SRO shortages at some point this year. Local law enforcement agencies, in general, are struggling to hire new officers. The National Association of School Resource Officers says local agencies are where most SROs come from.
"These are veteran officers who volunteer for these assignments. Just like an officer would volunteer for a detective assignment," said NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady, who spent 12 years overseeing an SRO program in Alabama.
Canady calls this hiring crisis unprecedented. He encourages any current SRO to consider talking to their colleagues.
"The SROs can be some of the best recruiters of their fellow officers," he said.
Canady says police aren't seen in a positive light, which could lead to fewer of them. Superintendent Ross is prepared to deal with SRO shortages in the long term.
"If I have to go with private security, if I have to go with soldiers, I want to do whatever it takes," Ross said.
Ross says the district is committed to spending millions of dollars on hardening its campuses, which can mean shoring up entrances and exits, and installing metal detectors.