What is a School Safety Officer?

Cassie L. Damewood

A school safety officer is the person in charge of maintaining a safe environment for students, teachers and other school personnel. He is typically responsible for ensuring the security of the school building, grounds, facilities and the area immediately surrounding the school property. His position may be at a large or small educational facility.

A school safety officer is authorized to use handcuffs.
A school safety officer is authorized to use handcuffs.

A person with this job customarily performs foot patrols of the school premises throughout the day. On larger campuses, he may use a motor vehicle or bicycle to carry out his inspection. He normally wears a uniform to increase his visibility and may be authorized to carry security tools, such as pepper spray and handcuffs.

The minimum perquisite to become a school safety officer is to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
The minimum perquisite to become a school safety officer is to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

If a school safety officer notices a student involved in a prohibited activity, he is normally required to reprimand the offender and report the action to the school principal or vice principal. This offense commonly involves bringing prohibited items onto campus, such as weapons or drugs. His scope of authority typically allows him to search lockers, backpacks and other satchels carried by students. He may also intervene in altercations that appear to be escalating from verbal exchanges into physical confrontations.

Keeping an eye out for strangers on campus is also an important part of the safety officer’s job. He generally knows the population of the school and can easily spot what may be an intruder. This surveillance may be done in person or by video monitor. If the person he approaches does not have written authorization to be there or a school escort to chaperon him, he is typically expected to ask them to depart and call authorities if they refuse. This usually applies to people inside the school building as well as on or around the exterior of the building.

The general physical safety of the building and grounds is commonly the responsibility of the school safety officer as well. He is usually required to check fire alarms and extinguishers to make sure they are fully operational and have current inspection certifications. If any safety hazards, such as broken glass or hazard materials spills, are noted, he is normally expected to rectify the situation.

Good communication skills with students, teachers and administrators are important to succeed as a school safety officer. He is frequently called upon to be a mediator, and the trust of everyone involved typically helps him quickly and easily resolve conflicts. His written communication skills should be clear, as he is regularly required to submit reports and summaries to school districts and boards.

This position usually requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Most school safety officers must first serve one year as an assistant to an experienced school safety officer before working independently. Additional training in first aid and security screening and enforcement is typically required for this job.

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