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School District Police and Student Experiences in California




Description: The primary aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between the organizational arrangements of district police forces and high school students' outcomes and experiences. It is an important first step to understand the implications of district-employed police departments for student-police interactions and general student well-being, and to create a foundation for more rigorous research on the topic in the future. The study will examine whether outcomes such as school safety and climate, student referrals to law enforcement, and exclusionary discipline vary between districts that employ their own standalone police departments and districts that instead rely on contracted police from the departments in their local jurisdictions.

Research Questions:

  1. Do the following outcomes vary between California school districts that have their own police departments, and similar California school districts that have police which are not employed by the district?
    1. Percent of student suspensions and expulsions
    2. Percent of students referred to a law enforcement agency or official
    3. Percent of students who received a school-related arrest
    4. Student experiences related to school safety, climate, and connectedness
  2. Do any of the aforementioned outcomes vary when we analyze outcomes for Black and Latinx students in comparison to White students?

Study Design: The study will compare the average outcomes at high schools in California districts with their own police departments with the average outcomes of matched comparison high schools in districts that deploy police that are not employed by the district. The study will include 239 districts and 588 schools. The research team will examine the differences between schools in districts that employ their own police and schools in districts with police that are not affiliated with the district, using as outcome measures the averages of suspensions and expulsions, referrals to law enforcement agencies, school-related arrests, and student self-reported experiences related to school safety, climate, and connectedness.

Projected Release Data: Fall 2021

Study Related Products: Descriptive report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Trevor Fronius