Best Practices

Virginia Beach: Virginia Beach Police Department's SROs bring Virginia Rules to the schools

Virginia Beach SROs and educators attend Virginia Rules training.

Virginia Beach SROs and educators attend Virginia Rules training.

At a glance

• Nearly 10,000 students reached to date: With 29 SROs teaching in 12 high schools and 15 middle schools, including three alternative schools, the Virginia Beach Police Department has reached thousands of students.

• Trained and motivated: All SROs have attended training, and they don’t stop there; they customize their lessons and have formed groups to develop online testing and consolidate pre- and post-tests

• A flexible, convincing curriculum: SROs teach a set selection of lessons, then add other material customized to their schools. SROs are experienced law-enforcement officers and bring a believable, real-life perspective to the program.

• A partnership with teachers: SROs are working with teachers in the schools to extend the program’s reach.

In depth

Virginia Beach Police Department SROs taught Class Action in the schools for years, so Virginia Rules was a natural next step.

Currently 29 SROs, all trained in the Virginia Rules program, serve 12 high schools (11 traditional and one alternative) and 15 middle schools (13 traditional and two alternative).

High school classes
High school students receive five mandatory lessons, which include criminal law, internet safety, alcohol, tobacco and drugs (which includes traffic safety), bullying, and crimes against persons and property. Each SRO can also choose an optional lesson addressing a problem unique to that school, for a total of six lessons. (SROs research issues facing the school by using crime statistics, SSIR data, current events, etc.) The lessons are presented in two 90-minute sessions during 12th grade government classes, for a total of three hours.

Middle school classes
Middle school students receive a total of eight lessons: three 50-minute presentations to 7th grade students in the Health/Physical Education curriculum, and five additional lessons, which include  juvenile justice/criminal law; internet safety; alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; gangs; bullying; and crimes against persons and property, plus an optional lesson selected by the SRO to address a crime problem facing that particular school.

Personalizing the lessons
All SROs are experienced law enforcement professionals and bring their experience and knowledge of the community to the teaching process. They also adapt the technology used to what is available in their school, and what they’re comfortable with.

Simplified testing
Since SROs give pre- and post-tests to all students, ease and consistency are important. A group of SROs met and decided on three questions from each lesson, creating uniform tests for use grade taught. Tests are multiple choice for ease of grading, and SROs try to administer them with scantron sheets. 

The department has also worked with the school system to develop an online testing procedure to make testing even easier. The system uses GoogleDocs, and early use has been well received.

A team approach
SROs are working to collaborate with teachers on presentation of lessons. Teachers were invited to the 2010 annual SRO In-Service training for an introduction and training session from the Attorney General’s Office; at least one member from each middle school and several high school teachers attended. SROs are also providing each teacher whose students participate in the program with instructor’s binders so they can make additional presentations.

Contributor: Jim McElligott, Master Police Officer, Crime Prevention Unit, Virginia Beach Police Department

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