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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Discipline

October 2020

Question:

What research or resources are available on removing school resource officers from schools?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies, and literature reviews on removing school resource officers from schools. For details on the databases and sources, key words, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Bracy, N. L. (2011). Student perceptions of high-security school environments. Youth & Society, 43(1), 365–395. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ915804

From the ERIC abstract: “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.”

Howard, T. C. (2016). Why Black lives (and minds) matter: Race, freedom schools & the quest for educational equity. Journal of Negro Education, 85(2), 101–113. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1215967

From the ERIC abstract: “A number of challenges continue to influence the schooling experience of Black students. While some progress has been made for some, chronic underperformance has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades. What has become increasingly a part of the experiences of Black children and other students of color has been the increasing police presence in schools. In 2015 attention was brought to the presence of police in schools when a South Carolina officer violently removed and slammed a young girl from her desk for defiant behavior in a case that garnered national attention. In this work, the salience and purpose of school police is examined, and in response to the current state of affairs, Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools are offered and discussed as a way of reimagining schools for Black children free of police presence and as a way to re-center learning, literacy and culture.”

King, S., & Bracy, N. L. (2019). School security in the post-Columbine era: Trends, consequences, and future directions. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 35(3), 274–295. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1043986219840188?casa_token=miSSLr8wA_gAAAAA%3AI7h0UzOR9vFcA6b6gvwR0ggZbnx7hp_ShpeXJxqRVY8D58UG2h_Y7VCNwrUbLjvg1tDekm5xCg2xoao

From the abstract: “Harsh and reactionary school security measures, including policing, surveillance technology, and emergency preparedness strategies increased substantially in the two decades following the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. These strategies have limited empirical support for preventing violence in general and mass shootings, in particular. Instead, they have proven to be problematic, often doing more harm than good by criminalizing student misbehavior, contributing to negative school climate, and having psychological impacts on students’ perceptions of safety. In recent years, many schools have started to explore promising alternative approaches, including threat assessment, positive behavioral interventions, restorative practices, and improving relationships between students and adults. This article reviews the trends in school security from the 1990s through the present, drawing on national data from the U.S. Department of Education and scholarly research on school security. Our specific focus will be on the changes in school security that have been made to prevent or minimize the impact of potential school shooters. We also discuss the consequences of the school security boom and the future directions to ensure school safety.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Sorensen, L., Shen, Y., & Bushway, S. D. (2020). Making schools safer and/or escalating disciplinary response: A study of police officers in North Carolina schools. Rochester, NY: SSRN. Retrieved from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3577645

From the abstract: “The ‘defund the police’ movement has recently called for the removal of police—or school resource officers (SROs)—from schools. This call is driven by concerns that SROs may heighten student contact with criminal justice or lead to disproportionately harsh disciplinary consequences. The current study uses linked disciplinary, academic, juvenile justice, and adult conviction data from North Carolina to estimate the effects of middle school SROs on a variety of student outcomes. Our findings indicate that SROs decrease the incidence of serious violence, but also increase the use of out-of-school suspensions, transfers, expulsions, and police referrals. This study provides new insights into the effects of police in schools, and implies new directions for policies, training, and accountability.”

Strobach, K. V., & Cowan, K. C. (2019). Comprehensive school safety: Leading and advocating for what works. Communique, 47(6), 28–29. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1213045

From the ERIC abstract: “February 14 marked the 1-year anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and April 20 marks the 20th anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine. Much progress has been made over the last 20 years in the understanding of threat assessment, crisis preparedness, and the importance of increasing access to comprehensive mental and behavioral health supports. At the core of this understanding is the recognition that there are no single or simple solutions to school safety; rather, ensuring safe schools requires a comprehensive, ongoing effort on the part of the entire school community. It is a way of being, a mode of operation, a culture, and a commitment to evidence-based practices. It also requires acknowledging that there is no way to guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen but that we do everything possible both to prevent unsafe behaviors and actions and to mitigate the negative consequences when safety is compromised. As such, it is not surprising that educators, district leaders, families, and policy makers continue to debate the most critical components of school safety. There are differing perspectives on the value and relative importance of increased school security and law enforcement officers in schools, physical hardening of schools, arming teachers and other educators, increasing access to mental and behavioral health services in the school and community, improving threat assessment procedures, improving information sharing with law enforcement, and coordinating emergency response plans with community first responders. Addressing gun violence must include preventing access to firearms by individuals at risk of hurting themselves or others. In order to make true progress, the authors conclude, school psychologists must see themselves as critical players in policy and practice conversations.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Turner, E. O., & Beneke, A. J. (2020). ‘Softening’ school resource officers: The extension of police presence in schools in an era of Black Lives Matter, school shootings, and rising inequality. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 23(2), 221–240. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1240049

From the ERIC abstract: “This study examines how and why a US city that is known nationally for its political progressivism continuously reaffirm its decision to maintain and expand the School Resource Officers (SRO) program in its high schools. By examining local discourses within a racial capitalism framework, we show that elements of racial neoliberalism re-emerge within a neoliberal therapeutic discourse that dominated decision-making processes and countered challenges to SROs in schools. This discourse argued that individual officers benefitted low-income students of color by providing care and challenging school racism. Despite research evidence and a counter discourse, which argued that SROs enacted harm and racism against low-income students of color, especially Black students, and should be removed from schools, SROs came to be an ‘easy’ fix to racial neoliberalism in the school district and city and contributed to the continuation and extension of the school to prison nexus.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “School police”

  • “School resource officers”

  • “School resource officers” Black Lives Matter

  • “School resource officers” defund the police

  • “School resource officers” removal

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.