Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Jennifer Allen

Committee Member

Steven Hecht

Committee Member

Maria Levi-Minzi

Committee Member

Marcelo Castro


interactions, law enforcement, location, mentoring, roles, teaching


Despite the widespread presence of school resource officers (SROs) in public schools for decades, their proper roles and priorities have remained unsettled because those roles are often varied, complex, conflicting, and ambiguous. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how SROs perceive their roles and priorities and whether school location influences those perceptions. Qualitative research methods provided opportunities for one-to-one interviews with SROs and their supervisors. Two elements embedded in the design consisted of a descriptive questionnaire provided to the SROs before their interviews, and a qualitative interview question designed to elicit a percentage estimate response from SROs. Eleven SROs and two supervisors from two law enforcement agencies were interviewed. All participants served the same school district in one county in Virginia and operated under one Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the school district. The SROs agreed that location made a difference in their roles and provided anecdotal information to corroborate that statement. The school designations of rural and suburban did not adequately define or describe the student population. Most of the rural schools draw students from rural locations and nearby suburban communities. Some differences in role perceptions were noted between the rural and suburban SROs but urbanicity was not attributed as a major influence of those differences. Location stability, defined as being assigned to the same school and the same administrator for five or more years, was believed to have some influence on expanded roles. The trust partnership between the SRO and the school administrator may result in expanded roles by the SRO and open opportunities for developing trust relationships with the students. The SROs believed it was important for them to interact with the parents in non-crisis situations. Expectations have a substantial influence on roles. Recruitment and retention of SROs is an important issue that should be addressed.