AUSTIN (KXAN) – A video of a Round Rock Police Office grabbing a student by the neck and taking him to the ground garnered national attention. We wanted to look at the largest school district in Central Texas, Austin AISD, and how they police their students. The school district has a separate police department, AISD Police. It joins Pflugerville as the only stand alone school police department. All others operate as part of city police or the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.
School resource officer Brian Platts has twelve years under his belt, four years at AISD. “It’s all about the relationship with the students and the staff,” he said while patrolling the halls of William Travis High School. On a typical day he interacts with Travis High kids and fills out paperwork.
“We have an AISD wide system that tells us what kid goes to what school and so forth,” said Platts.
This time he fills out information on two suspensions for fighting and one social welfare call. “We’re not just traditional law enforcemnt, we’re more than that in a school setting. We’re part of the educational process,” said Chief Eric Mendez. He tells KXAN all SRO’s (School Resource Officers) undergo 16 weeks of training when they’re hired and two weeks every year after to hone their skills.
Officers like Platts undergo training in mentoring, mediation, mental health, and cultural diversity. The entire goal is to keep kids in school, not to take them out of class for punishment.
“Turn it into a learning moment, we look for alternative solutions olther than arrests, to help the child stay in the educational environment,” said Chief Mendez.
If all goes well, he says, students shouldn’t even notice Officer Platt.
“The officers are visible, but not recognized. The kids see them. The kids move past them. They realize who they are, they may say hi.. but there’s no fear that they’re there. There’s no concern that there’s officers on campus,” said Chief Mendez.
He says patience is a skill resource officers have to have in order to deal with students who are still growing and discovering how to be an adult.
Right now, Austin ISD police have dozens of School Resource Officers in place. Every high school has two officers and every middle school has one officer. Last year, they started rotating the officers on a yearly basis to learn about all of the communities in the Austin area.