SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Arkansas school resource officers are required to go through training to help identify mental health struggles in the student bodies they serve.
Before Sgt. Matt Ray was a school resource officer, he was involved in a lot of child crimes as a detective and patrolman.
But now, he oversees the SROs in Springdale.
“To see kids in an opposite light was really nice and get to have a good positive relationship with students,” Ray said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2021, 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless, and nearly one-third experienced poor mental health.
Ray believes SROs can help.
“If we have a little bit of understanding and to provide the right resources, we’re not always looking for jail or anything like that,” Ray said.
SROs are required by the state to take a course every four years on how to identify, understand, and respond to mental illness and substance use disorders.
After this course is completed, they will receive a youth mental health aid certification.
“We want to help this kid succeed and be successful not only while in school, but in society as a whole,” Sgt. Ray said.
The Springdale school district has 15 SROs and two SRO supervisors..
Trent Jones, communications director with Springdale schools, says SROs have many responsibilities in the community.
“The purpose of them being on our campus is to build awareness, build safety, but also to build relationships,” Jones said.
He says they are thankful for all the work their SROs put into being prepared to help the students in any situation.
“They stay up-to-date, and we know that. And we are thankful for their commitment to their service with our children,” Jones said.
Ray says throughout the year, SROs and the police department may also do some internal mental health training as well.