JJ Strong has been a cop at Round Rock High, near Austin, for the past four years. His job involves roaming the halls on the lookout for kids causing trouble, whether it be getting in fights, smoking weed, or just generally being up to no good. And all the while, he’s constantly thinking about what he’d do if someone burst into the school with a gun.
“That’s always in the back of your mind,” Strong told VICE News, during his rounds one day last month. “Because if you’re not prepared, if you haven’t thought of a game plan, you’re not going to know what to do.”
In the year since the shooting at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High, schools around the country have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep their students safe. Some have installed hi-tech equipment and bulletproof windows. Others have encouraged their teachers to carry their own firearms. But the most fundamental aspect of school safety remains the most traditional: School police.
And now, some changes are coming.
Officer Strong is what’s known as a school resource officer, or SRO, a part of a program that dates to the 1950s, which has grown rapidly over the past few years. These days, it’s getting an overhaul: The Round Rock school district is among those considering trading their SRO program in for a self-contained, in-house police department, something 248 other districts in the state have already done — 34 in the last year alone.
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