COLUMBIA, Mo. - In June 2018, the first group of Missouri school employees will undergo a new state-approved training program to become school protection officers.
The requirements for the program were outlined in a law passed in 2014, since then, no educational institution has offered the course until the University of Missouri's Law Enforcement Training Institute four years later.
WHAT IS AN SPO?
A school protection officer (SPO) is a school employee designated by the school board to act in the same role as a police officer in the event of an emergency or otherwise compromising situation.
Missouri law makes it very clear that an SPO is a completely voluntary position.
"The responsibilities and duties of a school protection officer are voluntary and shall be in addition to the normal responsibilities and duties of the teacher or administrator," the law states. "Any compensation for additional duties relating to service as a school protection officer shall be funded by the local school district, with no state funds used for such purpose."
A school resource officer (SRO) is a full-fledged police officer who is hired full-time by a school district, while an SPO only has the legal authority of an officer under certain circumstances.
"A school protection officer has the same authority to detain or use force against any person on school property as provided to any other person under chapter 563," the statute said.
The 2014 law also includes a provision that aims to keep guns in the hands of SPOs and no one else.
Paragraph 207 makes it a class B misdemeanor for a teacher to "allow any such firearm out of his or her personal control while that firearm is on school property."
ADMISSION TO THE PROGRAM
The requirements for admission to the program are outlined in Missouri Revised Statutes.
Unless they are already a licensed peace officer in the state of Missouri, the first step is a voluntary application on the part of the faculty member to be submitted to the superintendent.
After that, a public hearing must be held in order to allow input from the community on any applicant.
"Before a school district may designate a teacher or administrator as a school protection officer, the school board shall hold a public hearing on whether to allow such designation," the statute says. "Notice of the hearing shall be published at least fifteen days before the date of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation within the city or county in which the school district is located."
The applicant must also undergo an FBI background check and have a valid concealed carry permit before starting the training program.
CURRICULUM OF THE PROGRAM
The training required to become a state-certified school protection officer is also strictly outlined in Missouri Department of Public Safety rules.
The following is a breakdown of each daily schedule of the three-week course, throughout which the Law Enforcement Training Institute at MU covers the required curriculum.
A LOOK INSIDE PRACTICAL TRAINING
ABC 17's Joe McLean and Kyle Oster were granted access to practical training exercises at the Law Enforcement Training Institute at MU.
These specialized practice sessions allow law enforcement trainees to experience simulated emergencies, including bomb threats, active shooters and hostage situations, in a controlled environment.
Instructors and volunteers were employed as stand-ins for armed combatants or innocent bystanders.
The following video is a montage of the training and includes some language that is not suitable for all viewers.