New NLC Collaboration to Provide Mental Health Training to Police Officers Working in Schools

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School resource officers and other police officers in schools can play a crucial role in affecting positive youth outcomes and improving public safety.

SRO and student
(Andersen Ross/Getty Images)

Police officers who respond to the developmental and mental health needs of youth in an informed and age-appropriate way help ensure the safety of everyone in schools, from students to teachers and staff. These officers also contribute to making neighborhoods and communities safer. However, like all law enforcement personnel, they need adequate training to do their jobs well.

In service of this, NLC is collaborating with the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change (Collaborative for Change) at the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice to build the capacity of school resource officers (SROs) in two cities, Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark.

Following a competitive application process, the Collaborative for Change selected Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark., based on their dedication to and leadership of city-led juvenile justice reform. These cities are currently engaged in NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform initiative, and will be among the first localities to receive the Collaborative for Change’s Adolescent Mental Health Training for SROs (AMHT-SRO), free of charge.

“The police officers that serve in our schools are on the front lines of our youth public safety efforts. Giving these officers the right set of tools is critical to productive interactions and outcomes with youth, especially those with mental health needs,” said Betsy Hodges, mayor, Minneapolis. “Being selected to receive resources from the National League of Cities and the Collaborative for Change will help us succeed in our Juvenile Justice Reform efforts and ultimately in our pursuit of citywide safety.”

The Collaborative’s comprehensive, two-day curriculum provides training for SROs who work in middle and high school settings. The purpose of the training is to help SROs develop the critical skills and capacity for appropriately responding to the many predictable behavior issues that they often encounter among adolescents with mental health problems.

“Part of what motivated us to develop this training curriculum was concern that many SROs do not routinely receive any youth mental health or adolescent development training,” said Kathleen Skowyra, Associate Director of the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. “We believe it is critical that SROs receive training to help them identify the signs and symptoms of mental health issues among the students they supervise, and as well as training to improve their crisis intervention, de-escalation and communication skills.”

The Collaborative for Change provides multiple trainings for thousands of juvenile justice system professionals each year, including the popular Crisis Intervention Training for Youth and the Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice. Their training complements NLC’s juvenile justice reform initiative to support diversion of youth away from unnecessary arrest and toward a continuum of community-based services that better meet youth needs, improve outcomes and increase public safety.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative supports both NLC and the Collaborative for Change to help government leaders build a more effective juvenile justice system.

Laura Furr
About the Author:
Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr.