Contracted School Resource Officers Must Comply With State Vaccine Mandates But There’s A Loophole

By Dori Luzzo Gilmour

School Resource Officers should be following the state’s vaccination mandate. But that isn’t the case for some officers who serve schools in Benton County.

School resource officers that are contracted employees of school districts must follow the state’s vaccine mandate according to The Office for the Superintendent of Public Instructions Director of Communication Katy Payne. The school districts can require the Sheriff’s department to either provide vaccination status or provide the officer an exemption.

Payne says , “Whether or not they are an employee of the district or a contractor, SROs, since they work in school facilities, in proximity with students and staff, and at times with families and visitors…they do need to follow the Governors vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine proclamations….”

The Sheriff departments that are providing contracted school resource officers must ask those deputies for vaccination status or exemption.

“Anybody they are sending on to a school campus, to serve as an SRO, to provide those services that are in the contract, that means that THEY must be in compliance with the Governors vaccine proclamation.” Payne said.

However, Pete Peterson, the Superintendent of Kiona Benton school district said in four years he has never signed a contract with the Sheriff’s department and the previous Superintendent hadn’t either; “Brad been here a long time and no one has ever seen a contract, contract…the best I can come to is that simply he is assigned like any other deputy would assigned to a beat or an area…and this is his area.”

Peterson called the Sheriff’s department to confirm if there was a contract. They did not return his calls. Peterson explained that he does enforce the mandate with all other employees and volunteers but does not with contracted employees. Instead, he relies on the employer to enforce the mandate. But, since the Sheriff’s department does not have a contract with the school district, they do not have to comply with the vaccine mandate even though officers are on campus.