Friday, December 14, 2018

Arkansas School Resource Officer Loves to Educate

Officer Yolanda Bone is a 25-year veteran of the Little Rock Police Department in Arkansas. She has spent the bulk of her career in the rewarding and challenging role of school resource officer (SRO), providing safety and education at middle and high schools around the city. Due to Officer Bone’s love for and longevity in this role, she's starting to see the kids of former students walking the same halls she patrols.

For several years, Officer Bone and her fellow Little Rock SROs obtained a portion of their curricular materials via training and conferences with the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute. They would augment the materials based on life experience and local activities in the community. Generating their own curriculum required them to write lesson plans, do research to ensure it was developmentally appropriate, devise icebreakers and produce handouts. Doing this in addition to Officer Bone’s regular duties taught her a lot about curriculum design, but was time-consuming.

Then, in fall 2017, Officer Bone and her colleagues were invited by Street Law to attend training on its Police & Teens program. The SROs were introduced to Street Law’s 20-lesson curriculum that equips police officers to teach young people about the law, police procedures, personal safety and health, and community policing. The collaborative, dialogue-based approach of the lessons helps build awareness, respect, empathy, and understanding between police officers and youth.

Officer Bone says, “From the moment I walked in, it was a setting of learning. [The trainers were] awesome. I was in class with other SROs that I hadn’t interacted with before. We could do scenarios together. We brought [school] administrators too, and did group work.”

Officer Bone was particularly thrilled with the curriculum. After years of creating her own material, she said, “Street Law had it all packaged in one deal…. To have the curriculum set up was awesome…. My co-teachers who went through the training with me said the same thing. It was just there for you. All you had to do was make copies, post things on the board; it was there. You didn’t have to do a lot of research.”

She added that her years of experience make it easy for her to do online research and supplement with materials, but she tells new SROs, “This is your base. This will get you started. This will get you into the classroom with new, updated information… [Street Law has] equipped you: All you have to do is keep it going.”

The lessons can augment a variety of middle and high school courses, including social studies and health. Officer Bone has found success partnering with teachers of non-core classes, such as broadcasting or computers, to co-teach the lessons. Subjects she’s covered so far this year include cyberbullying and bullying, topics she says are truly needed in the classroom based on their effect on students today.

After she presents, students complete a survey. Officer Bone reports that many young people “feel comfortable telling me things they probably wouldn’t without this curriculum. They [are] eager to learn and to go back and tell others.” When asked what she would change or improve about the Police & Teens program, Officer Bone replied: “More curriculum! That’s the only thing I need.”

Learn more about Street Law's Police & Teens Program.