Recently there has been some debate in Bridgeport regarding the use of police officer in schools. Issues such as these are not always clear cut so I provide a sampling of studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals regarding this issue. Below you will see the title of the study in bold and then a summary of the study. There may be a lot to read here, but if you read toward the end of each summary you will get the conclusion of the study.
This is by no means a review of the scientific literature in this area, but at least you will get a better idea of how to think about this issue as it relates to school children. You will notice some of the nuances to consider. If you have any feedback or questions please feel free to let me know.
1. School-police partnership effectiveness in urban schools: An analysis of New York City’s Impact Schools Initiative
Despite nationwide decreases in school crime and violence, a relatively high and increasing number of students report feeling unsafe at school. In response, some school officials are implementing school-police partnerships, especially in urban areas, as an effort to deter criminal activity and violence in schools. This article examines the initial effect of New York City’s Impact Schools Initiative, a punitive-based school-police partnership developed in January 2004 that increases police presence at some of the city’s most dangerous public schools. An initial examination of school-level demographic and environmental variables reveals that, despite increased police presence, students enrolled at New York City’s impact schools continue to experience higher than average problems linked directly to future criminality, including more student suspensions and lower attendance rates than other New York City Schools. The data also reveal that relative to other New York City public schools, impact schools are more crowded and receive less funding.
Brady, K. P., Balmer, S., & Phenix, D. (2007). School-police partnership effectiveness in urban schools: An analysis of New York City’s Impact Schools Initiative. Education and Urban Society, 39(4), 455-478. doi:10.1177/0013124507302396
2. The role of police in public schools: A comparison of principal and police reports of activities in schools
This paper describes results from a recent study about the role of law enforcement in schools. Using data from a national mail survey of principals and law enforcement administrators, we compare reports of the types of activities in which police are involved. We found agreement that law-enforcement related activities were the most common type of police involvement in schools, but police also report higher levels of overall participation in schools. We conclude with a discussion of possible explanations for these different perceptions and suggestions for future research to better understand the role of law enforcement in school safety.
Coon, J., & Travis, L. (2012). The role of police in public schools: A comparison of principal and police reports of activities in schools. Police Practice & Research: An International Journal, 13(1), 15-30. doi:10.1080/15614263.2011.589570
3. Considerations for integrating school resource officers into school mental health models
The present editorial addresses considerations for integrating school resource officers into school mental health models. The aim of the plan is to safeguard U.S. children from the increasing rate of violence taking place in U.S. schools and communities. Resource officers first showed up in urban schools in small numbers in the late 1950s, but in the late 1990s the profession ballooned. Following a succession of school shootings, schools adopted zero tolerance policies and exclusionary discipline practices, and funds were widely available for schools to hire resource officers. When federal funding for resource officers was at its peak, schools with resource officers referred students for conduct offenses to juvenile courts at five times the rate compared with schools without officers, after controlling for school-level poverty. School social workers, psychologists, and counselors need to embrace resource officers and educate them about school-based tiered prevention models. School-based mental health professionals need to be attentive to the fact that resource officers, when hired through collaborations with local law enforcement, are foremost and always police officers. In summary, this is a call for school social workers to thoughtfully engage the oncoming reality that school resource officers will be an element of school service models.
Thompson, A. M., & Alvarez, M. E. (2013). Considerations for integrating school resource officers into school mental health models. Children & Schools, 35(3), 131-136.
4. Circumventing the law: Students’ rights in schools with police
Over the past several decades, public schools in the United States have been increasingly transformed into high security environments, complete with surveillance technologies, security forces, and harsh punishments. The school resource officer (SRO) program, which assigns uniformed police officers to work in public schools, is one significant component of this new brand of school security. Although the intentions of the SRO program are clear—to help administrators maintain order in schools, deter students from committing criminal acts, and arrest students who do break the law—the potential unintended consequences of this program are largely unknown. This study employs ethnographic methodology in two public high schools with SROs to examine how students’ rights, including Fourth Amendment rights, Fifth Amendment rights, and privacy rights, are negotiated in public schools with full-time police presence. The results of this study suggest that schools administrators and SROs partner in ways that compromise and reduce the legal rights of students.
Bracy, N. L. (2010). Circumventing the law: Students’ rights in schools with police. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26(3), 294-315. doi:10.1177/1043986210368645
5. Including school resource officers in school-based crisis intervention: Strengthening student support
This article discusses the importance of trained police officers, School Resource Officers (SROs), participating in school-based crisis response efforts. These efforts, mostly preventative in nature, mitigate and de-escalate trauma for students exposed to a wide variety of challenging situations. Scenarios are presented with dialogue between students and SRO, offering insights into how SROs support students’ emotional needs. The article demonstrates how trained SROs’ service complements school-based crisis prevention and intervention efforts.
James, R. K., Logan, J., & Davis, S. A. (2011). Including school resource officers in school-based crisis intervention: Strengthening student support. School Psychology International, 32(2), 210-224. doi:10.1177/0143034311400828
6. School resource officers and the criminalization of student behavior
As school resource officer (SRO) programs continue to be widely implemented, there is concern that an increasing police presence at schools will “criminalize” student behavior by moving problematic students to the juvenile justice system rather than disciplining them at school. If true, this has serious implications for students and schools; yet research on this topic is limited and the discourse is often based on speculation or anecdotal evidence. To address this issue, this study evaluated the impact of SROs on school-based arrest rates by comparing arrests at thirteen schools with an SRO to fifteen schools without an SRO in the same district. Poisson and negative binomial regression models showed that having an SRO did not predict more total arrests, but did predict more arrests for disorderly conduct. Conversely, having an SRO decreased the arrest rate for assault and weapons charges. Implications of these findings for understanding SROs and their role in criminalizing student behavior are discussed.
Theriot, M. T. (2009). School resource officers and the criminalization of student behavior. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(3), 280-287. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2009.04.008
7. Student perceptions of high-security school environments
Public schools have transformed significantly over the past several decades in response to concerns about rising school violence. Today, most public schools are high-security environments employing police officers, security cameras, and metal detectors, as well as strict discipline policies to keep students in line and maintain safe campuses. These changes undoubtedly influence the social climate of schools, yet we know very little about how students experience and perceive these measures. Via ethnographic research in two contemporary public high schools, the author examines students’ perceptions of high-security school environments, including perceptions of their school resource officer, schools’ discipline policies, punishments, and fairness in rule application. Findings show that students believe their schools to be safe places and think many of the security strategies their schools use are unnecessary. Students further express feeling powerless as a result of the manner in which their schools enforce rules and hand down punishments.
Bracy, N. L. (2011). Student perceptions of high-security school environments. Youth & Society, 43(1), 365-395. doi:10.1177/0044118X10365082
8. School resource officers for bullying interventions: A mixed-methods analysis
The number of school police officers, School Resource Officers (SROs), is increasing on school campuses to assist in preventing school violence, and in particular bullying. This mixed-methods study was conducted to compare the knowledge and perceptions of SROs (N = 184) hired by independent school districts (ISD SROs) and those contracted from law enforcement agencies (CSROs) about their knowledge and perceptions about bullying interventions. By comparison, ISD SROs were more aware than CSROs about knowledge of school bullying plans, the need for social skills training, enforcing existing school policies regarding bullying intervention strategies, and using more conflict resolution strategies. Additionally, ISD SROs were less likely to use punitive law enforcement strategies than were CSROs.
Robles-Piña, R. A., & Denham, M. A. (2012). School resource officers for bullying interventions: A mixed-methods analysis. Journal of School Violence, 11(1), 38-55. doi:10.1080/15388220.2011.630311
9. A study of zero tolerance policies in schools: A multi‐integrated systems approach to improve outcomes for adolescents
Problem: School officials throughout the United States have adopted zero tolerance policies to address student discipline, resulting in an increase in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. The introduction of police on school campuses also increased the referral of students to the juvenile courts. Although school personnel generally view zero tolerance policies as a constructive measure, this approach denies recent research on adolescent brain development that mischief is a foreseeable derivative of adolescence. Methods: A case study method examined one juvenile court’s innovative multi-integrated systems approach related to the adverse trends associated with zero tolerance policies. Findings: A multi-disciplinary protocol resulted in more effective youth assessments that reduced out-of-school suspensions and school referrals; increased graduation rates by 20%; and decreased delinquent felony rates by nearly 50%. The resulting protocol changed how the system responds to disruptive students by significantly reducing out-of-school suspensions and school referrals, and putting into place alternatives as well as providing community resources to address the underlying causes of the behavior. Conclusions: A multi-systems approach that targets the reasons for disruptive behavior improves student educational and behavioral outcomes.
Teske, S. C. (2011). A study of zero tolerance policies in schools: A multi‐integrated systems approach to improve outcomes for adolescents. Journal of Child And Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 24(2), 88-97. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00273.x
10. The Social Construction of Local School Violence Threats by the News Media and Professional Organizations
The research presented here examines the social construction of local school violence threats in the context of national claims-making aboutschool violence, particularly school shootings. In light of the news media glare surrounding other school shootings, school and policeofficials in Burlington, Wisconsin assessed the threat posed by five high-school youth who allegedly plotted to carry out a school attack in November 1998. Social constructionist scholarship has shown that claims made about a problem and the way it is framed in the news media and other informational contexts shape an audience’s perception of a social problem’s seriousness, prevalence, setting, and causes. But as William Gamson and others have pointed out, “readers” are not passive recipients of media messages; rather, they actively interact with those messages to construct meaning. This research project involved two components: (1) content analysis of the print media (in two periods 1992-1993 and 1997-1998) and law enforcement and school administrator publications and conference materials; and (2) in-depth, semistructured interviews with 13 respondents, including the 11 Burlington school and police officials who assessed and acted on this case. In this paper, I examine how the (Racine) Journal Times and professional organizations constructed (and reconstructed) school violence and how local decision-makers interpreted their own school violence threat in the context of the news media’s and professional organizations’ constructions.
Herda-Rapp, A. (2003). The Social Construction of Local School Violence Threats by the News Media and Professional Organizations. Sociological Inquiry, 73(4), 545-574. doi:10.1111/1475-682X.00071
11. The ‘worst of both worlds’: School security and the disappearing fourth amendment rights of students.
This article examines two related themes: the increasingly restrictive security measures in public schools and the reluctance of the courts to protect the basic Fourth Amendment rights of students. Information from academic and journalistic sources is presented regarding the impact on students from greater police presence and restrictive school security measures, including the potential harm to the learning environment. Additionally, this article reviews recent state appellate court decisions empowering police to search students using the less protective guidelines of reasonable suspicion and the “special needs” doctrine. This article also evaluates the recent United States Supreme Court decision that permits schools to conduct suspicionless drug testing of students as a condition of participating in any extracurricular activities. The results of these disciplinary policies and search tactics can be described as the “worst of both worlds,” with severe penalties for even minor student misconduct without the safeguards of the Fourth Amendment.
Beger, R. R. (2003). The ‘worst of both worlds’: School security and the disappearing fourth amendment rights of students. Criminal Justice Review, 28(2), 336-354. doi:10.1177/073401680302800208