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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 37P: School resource officers

Section 37P. (a) As used in this section the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:—

''Chief of police'', the chief of police or the board or officer having control of the police in a city or town.

''School resource officer'', a duly sworn municipal police officer with all necessary training, up-to-date certificates or a special officer appointed by the chief of police charged with providing law enforcement and security services to elementary and secondary public schools. For the purpose of this section a school resource officer shall be exempt under subsection (j) of section 10 of chapter 269, while serving in the officer's official capacity.

(b) Every chief of police, in consultation with the superintendent and subject to appropriation, shall assign at least 1 school resource officer to serve the city, town, commonwealth charter school, regional school district or county agricultural school. In the case of a regional school district, commonwealth charter school or county agriculture school, the chief of police of the city or town where the school is located, in consultation with the superintendent, shall assign the school resource officer, which may be the same officer for all schools in the city or town.

In assigning a school resource officer, hereinafter referred to as ''SRO'', the chief of police shall assign an officer that the chief believes would strive to foster an optimal learning environment and educational community. The chief of police shall give preference to candidates who demonstrate the requisite personality and character to work with children and educators in a school environment and who have received specialized training relating to working with adolescents and children, including cognitive development, de-escalation techniques, and alternatives to arrest and diversion strategies. The appointment shall not be based solely on seniority. The performance of an SRO shall be reviewed annually by the superintendent and the chief of police.

The superintendent and the chief of police shall enter into a written memorandum of understanding which shall be placed on file in the offices of the school superintendent and the chief of police. The memorandum of understanding shall, at minimum, describe the following: (i) the mission statement, goals and objectives of the SRO program; (ii) the roles and responsibilities of the SROs, the police department, and the schools; (iii) the process for selecting SROs; (iv) the mechanisms to incorporate SROs into the school environment, including school safety meetings; (v) information sharing between SROs, school staff and other partners; (vi) the organizational structure of the SRO program, including supervision of SROs and the lines of communication between the school district and police department; (vii) training for SROs, including but not limited to continuing professional development in child and adolescent development, conflict resolution and diversion strategies; and (viii) specify the manner and division of responsibility for collecting and reporting the school-based arrests, citations and court referrals of students to the department of elementary and secondary education in accordance with regulations promulgated by the department, which shall collect and publish disaggregated data in a like manner as school discipline data made available for public review.

The memorandum of understanding shall state that SROs shall not serve as school disciplinarians, as enforcers of school regulations or in place of licensed school psychologists, psychiatrists or counselors and that SROs shall not use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior.

The chief of police, in consultation with the school superintendent, shall establish standard operating procedures, hereinafter referred to as ''SOP'', to provide guidance to SROs about daily operations, policies and procedures. At minimum, the SOP, as established by the chief of police, shall describe the following for the school resource officer:

(1) the SRO uniform;

(2) use of police force, arrest, citation and court referral on school property;

(3) a statement and description of students' legal rights, including the process for searching and questioning students and when parents and administrators shall be notified and present;

(4) chain of command, including delineating to whom the SRO reports and how school administrators and the SRO work together;

(5) performance evaluation standards, which shall incorporate monitoring compliance with the memorandum of understanding and use of arrest, citation, and police force in school;

(6) protocols for diverting and referring at-risk students to school- and community-based supports and providers; and

(7) information sharing between the SRO, school staff, and parents or guardians.

The executive office of public safety and security, in consultation with the department of elementary and secondary education, shall make available to all communities examples of model memoranda of understanding, statements of procedures, and non-binding advisories on how to establish said documents.

(c) Upon written application by a school department of a city or town, in consultation with the chief of police, a regional school district or a county agricultural school, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education may waive the requirements of this section if the commissioner believes a school resource officer would not assist that particular city or town, regional school district or county agricultural school to ensure school safety. The written application shall include: (i) the reasons for the waiver request; (ii) data or evidence supporting the waiver request; and (iii) a description of, and supporting data for, alternative procedures and resources relied upon to ensure safe schools.

(d) The department of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate rules or regulations necessary to carry out this section.

(e) Notwithstanding subsection (b), if the chief of police, in consultation with the superintendent, determines that there are not sufficient resources to assign a school resource officer to serve the city, town, regional school district or county agricultural school, the chief of police shall consult with the department of state police to ensure that a school resource officer is assigned, subject to appropriation; provided, further, that if a state police officer is assigned to a city, town, regional school district or county agricultural school, assignment shall not be based solely on seniority and a candidate shall be considered who would strive to foster an optimal learning environment and educational community; provided, further, that there shall be placed on file in the office of the superintendent and the department of state police a memorandum of understanding clearly defining the roles and duties of the school resource officer.

(f) No public employer shall be liable for injury, loss of property, personal injury or death caused by an act or omission of a public employee while acting in the scope of the public employee's employment and arising out of the implementation of this section. This section shall not be construed as creating or imposing a specific duty of care.