Jacinto Ramos,Jr. and Devin Del Palacio

The Evolving Roles of School Resource officers For The Next Decade

By: Jacinto Ramos, Jr. and Devin del palacio

2020 has been a year that has presented education leaders with a series of challenges that prompt policymakers and school districts rethink all areas of our education system. From distance learning to safe learning environments, what has historically been the normal has been upended. Education leaders are facing a reality where administrators, teachers, and students are unsure when normal will return.

In the area of school resource officers (SROs), school board members and district leadership are facing an ongoing balancing act of adopting a structure where they can both meet the needs and expectations of their communities, students, and staff. Constructing a safe and healthy education environment will require us to rethink how we should proceed.

As school board members, we are entrusted by our communities with the responsibility to ensure good governance. Part of this process is taking the time to listen to the needs, concerns, and thoughts of our communities. This is especially true when it comes to the evolving role of SROs in our schools.

The realities of the past year present us with new challenges for engaging our communities and ensuring that we create clear policies and expectations for SROs that help promote the goals of the communities that we serve. In the world where COVID-19 has added a layer of concerns for safety by students, teachers, and staff, this becomes more complicated and more important. Add in the ongoing critical discussions and expressions of concerns by students and communities surrounding racial equality and justice, and it becomes clear that school board members have the important responsibility to address these issues when adopting policies for the use and/or expansion of SROs in their districts.

To help address these important needs, concerns, and issues surrounding SROs and their role in our schools, school board members should take into consideration such things as how to evaluate the success of SROs, what makes a strong contract and collaboration with local law enforcement, the need for specific training of SROs, and whether goals are based on areas of external threats to students or internal safety issues. For school board members, good governance practices can help identify goals and allow for other crucial items such as emergency constraints.

In Fort Worth, the board is working on constraints in contracts to prioritize the mental wellbeing of students and educators. By having this language in the contract, Fort Worth is brings in additional resources to supplement this focus on health and mental health services.  

At the same time, school board members are facing the economic realities of pandemic-induced budgeting dilemmas. Most school districts are divided into funding SROs through allocation of district funding sources, outside grant funding, or some combination of both funding sources. With the potential loss of significant funding due to COVID-19, it is possible that school board members will have to face the difficult process to fully fund SROs and other likely important aspects of safety, including school nurses and mental health professionals. These decisions on the allocation of limited resources will challenge school boards to adopt budgets that reflect the values and priorities of the communities they serve. As school board members confront this challenge of creating safe and secure education environments and fully funding those and their traditional programming costs, having clear goals and expectations for the use of SROs will be crucial.

Beyond the issue of  budgeting challenges, there is also the moral responsibility to take deliberate action to address the role of SROs on campus and how they impact students. Even before the social justice movements of 2020, there was growing data that demonstrates the clear disproportionate discipline rates for Black and Brown students. For many students, the presence of uniformed SROs is not always perceived as reassuring or making the education space safer. The reality is that for many students, SROs can trigger traumatic and stress-inducing feelings. To ignore the data and growing expression of students and their communities to policy-makers to address these disparities will do little to create a safe and secure education environment.

As school board members, we both have actively engaged on the issues of racial justice with our communities, staff, and students. In Fort Worth, Board President Ramos has used his career experience as a gang intervention specialist and juvenile probation officer to understand the importance of focusing resources, including SROS, on intervention and prevention. Programming in Fort Worth ISD includes My Brother’s Keeper where young boys of color work collaboratively with their community leaders, including some SROs, to tackle the challenges head-on. Courageous Conversations have helped create a brave space to have healthy dialogue on focusing on solutions in the community.

In Arizona, NSBA National Council of Black School Board Members Chair Devin Del Palacio uses his experiences to engage school board members on the importance of focusing on measures to support the social and emotional needs of our students and staff. We must acknowledge that for many of our Black, Brown, and indigenous students and staff that seeing a uniformed officer triggers trauma. We must prioritize bringing in resources and partnerships to serve the whole needs of our students.

For example, in Board Chair Del Palacio’s Tolleson Union High School District, they have partnered with grassroots groups and local nonprofits such as Stand Up Speak Out Save a Life and March for our Lives to proactively meet the mental health needs of students.  School board members should be focusing on prevention and not waiting for something to happen. We must also build consensus, and one effective way to do this is through an open and participatory budgeting process that includes students and the greater community. There is an old saying of “show me your budget, and I will show you what your priorities are.” By having a participatory budget process, you allow the community and students to embrace the role of SROs and help set expectations.

2020 has taught us all that our best plans are often vulnerable to disruption. For school board members, having this in mind should move us towards more participatory and inclusive conversations about our goals and expectations of SROs for the next decade. We have a prime opportunity to engage in courageous conversations about SROs and policing in our schools. To ensure success, school board members have the responsibility to move forward and fully address the issues that are often raised by communities, staff, and students about the presence of SROs on campus. 



Jacinto A. Ramos Jr.

President, Fort Worth Independent School District (TX)

Chair, NSBA Council of Urban Boards of Education


Jacinto A. Ramos Jr. serves as the chief of board governance and leadership at Leadership ISD. He is proven national, state, and community leader on educational policy, racial/ethnic equity, and school board governance.

Ramos is the chair of the 2019-0 Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) as well as the next president of the Mexican American School Boards Association. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB.)

Born and raised on the North Side of Fort Worth, Ramos is a product of immigrant parents from Mexico, devoting countless hours to the cause of providing a voice to the disengaged and the disenchanted youths of today.

Bridging the silos of activism, leadership, and community engagement, Ramos earned a spot on the Fort Worth Independent School District's School Board of Trustees in June 2013. Two years later, he reached an historic milestone becoming the youngest board president from his District. In addition to his leadership roles in CUBE and MASBA, he is now one of 22 school board members in the country to have a seat at the National School Board Association (NSBA) table.

He is also a member of the Council of the Great City Schools, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a Fellow of the Center for Reform of School Systems (CRSS.)




Devin Del Palacio

Board Member, Tolleson Union High School District (AZ)

Chair, NSBA National Council of Black School Board Members


Devin Del Palacio is a member of the governing board of the Tolleson Union High School District, Arizona. Del Palacio was raised by a single mother, and due to financial situations, attended eight different public schools while growing up. Seeking the opportunity to give back, Devin became a Community Organizer in 2012, working for the next few years to empower and register 34,000 minority voters in South and West Phoenix. 


In 2014, Del Palacio decided to run for a seat on the Tolleson Union High School District Governing Board. He won and immediately became the Vice President of the board.


He serves as chairman of the National Black Council of School Board Members for National School Boards Association. He works to increase academic achievement for ethnic and racial minority groups and to support diverse school board members in their communities. Closer to home, he serves as the chair of the Black Caucus of the Arizona School Boards Association and Vice President of NAACP for Arizona Chapter. He recently joined the Board of Young Voices for the Planet.