Police in Schools

Study: More Cops in Schools Lead to Harsher Discipline, Don't Make School Safer

"Our findings suggest that increasing SRO staffing in schools does not improve school safety and that increasing exclusionary responses to school discipline incidents increases the criminalization of school discipline."

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Increasing the number of police in schools doesn't make school safer and leads to harsher discipline for infractions, according to a new study in the journal Criminology & Public Policy.

The longitudinal study, published by researchers at the University of Maryland and the firm Westat, looked at disciplinary offenses at 33 public middle and high schools in California that increased their number of school resource officers (SROs) in 2013 or 2014, and then compared them over time with 72 similar schools that did not. The study found that increasing the number of SROs led to both immediate and persistent increases in the number of drug and weapon offenses and the number of exclusionary disciplinary actions against students.

While the initial bump in offenses could be explained simply as an effect of increased policing, the boost in recorded crimes and exclusionary responses persisted for 20 months in the schools studied. The researchers say this suggests that rather than deter crime in schools, increasing the number of SROs leads to more "formal responses to behaviors that otherwise would have been undetected or handled informally."

"Our findings suggest that increasing SRO staffing in schools does not improve school safety and that increasing exclusionary responses to school discipline incidents increases the criminalization of school discipline," Denise Gottfredson, professor emerita at the University of Maryland Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said in a statement.

The study's findings come as school districts across the country are reconsidering the use of SROs in the wake of national demands for policing reforms. The number of police in schools has skyrocketed in schools over the past four decades, first in response to drugs and then mass shootings. Police departments and organizations like the National Association of School Resource Officers argue that well-trained SROs act as liaisons between the school and police department.

Earlier this month, Chicago Public Schools slashed its school police budget by more than half. So far, San Francisco is the largest school district to move toward defunding its SRO program. The Oakland school board also voted unanimously to eliminate the district's police department and shift its $2.5 million budget to student support services. Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Charlottesville, and Portland, Oregon, have also ended or suspended relationships with local police.

Civil liberties groups and disability advocates have long argued that increases in school police and zero-tolerance policies for petty disturbances have fueled the "school-to-prison" pipeline and led to disproportionate enforcement against minorities and students with disabilities. (The study did not find a significant change in criminal referrals and exclusionary actions against special needs students.)

As with policing at large, viral videos of excessive force and small children being arrested have sparked national outrage.

Last week, body camera footage emerged showing police officers in Key West, Florida, trying and failing to handcuff an eight-year-old boy, whose wrists were too small for the cuffs. And an Orlando SRO made headlines last September when he arrested a six-year-old girl. 

In February, a school resource officer at a high school in Camden, Arkansas, was relieved of duty after video showed him putting a student in a chokehold and lifting the student off the ground. Last December, a North Carolina SRO was fired after he brutally body-slammed a middle-schooler. In November, a Broward County sheriff's deputy in Florida was arrested and charged with child abuse after a video showed him body-slamming a 15-year-old girl at a special needs school.

Chicago activists who want to defund the school system's police program have cited a 2019 video in which Chicago police officers kick, punch, and tase a 16-year-old girl.

The study recommends that "educational decision-makers seeking to enhance school safety consider the many alternatives to programs that require regular police presence in schools."

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  1. “Chicago activists who want to defund the school system’s police program have cited a 2019 video in which Chicago police officers kick, punch, and tase a 16-year-old girl.”

    It’s a little odd that CJ doesn’t mention that the votes at local schools in Chicago on removing police failed everywhere except at magnet schools. Could it be that not everyone attends a wealthy suburban school district?

    1. For every case of the police assaulting a student there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of cases of students assaulting other students often in much more brutal ways than this. If you are a kid victimized by other kids, that is just too damn bad I guess. Reason views you as just another egg in the big gay Libertarian omelette

      1. I don’t really care about if it’s bad or good to have cops in schools. What I’m saying is that if the people who attend that school want cops, so be it.

        What CJ is doing is trying to pretend like every local community in America is just like the affluent white suburb where he grew-up in. And so in this instance, “local control bad” and “decentralization bad”. This will change as soon as a local school district wants to end sex segregated sports, but watch it return real fast when a state wants to ban local school districts from ending sex segregated sports.

        1. Sorry, no, but simple-majority-rules is not actually how our government works. Even in local communities, the fears of 51% cannot be used to justify infringements on the rights of the minority.

          While you are theoretically correct that schools and communities are all different and that what works in one might be different from what works in another, you are rather casually ignoring the point of the entire article – that a study that compared multiple communities and schools found no benefit and some harm to higher levels of police in schools. You can accuse the article author of projecting whitebread experiences onto other communities. The methodology of the study, however, does not support that accusation.

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          2. I would tend to agree except the votes have not been that close. It’s closer to 70% for versues 30% against. Nonetheless, your point is well taken, but I think democracy should be ignored when we’re talking individual rights. Those are already being ignored as we are talking about public schools.

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      2. The study suggests that if you remove cops, you get less reported and/or convictions of crime – no kidding!

      3. Let’s finally all be honest. I am a baby boomer. The reason school’s worked when I was kid is because teachers and principals had the authority to remove the trouble makers. Today that no longer exists and it’s far worse with special ed kids because they use their “disability “ to justify aberrant behavior.

        1. I’ve been saying this for years. There were always one or two (bad actor, lousy student) kids who simply didn’t show up the next fall. Being a geek, I really didn’t care (and didn’t know) they why’s and where’s, I was just glad they were gone so that I could have one fewer distractions.

          This is one place that most of the world really is ahead of us: youngsters who can’t or won’t benefit from an academic focus need to be moved into vocational training fairly early on after finishing grammar school. They’ll get what they need, and the “geeks” will get what they need.

          Cops are not, and never were, a part of this.

        2. They were also spanked. It worked. But, the bleeding-heart, pseudo-intellectual psychology community and their leftist enablers removed this and any other meaningful discipline out of the schools. Go to any inner-city school, and see for yourself. We’re raising generations of spoiled, entitled, psychopathic narcissists who basically do whatever they want with little/no consequences. The BLM riots are just one example of this.

      4. “For every case of the police assaulting a student there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of cases of students assaulting other students often in much more brutal ways than this.”

        Reason: increasing exclusionary responses to school discipline incidents increases the criminalization of school discipline.

        They say that like it’s a bad thing.

        A Libertarian magazine might want force and fraud prevented, and prosecuted when not, especially in government institutions that citizens are required to turn their children over to.

        Ah, and here it is:
        Reason: have fueled the “school-to-prison” pipeline

        Reason adopting the Obama program of letting violent crime run amok in schools, because otherwise criminals might go to jail, which must not be allowed because those criminals turn out to be disproportionately more melanin abled than Whitey.

        The Parkland Massacre was caused by Obama era policy to end the “school to prison pipeline”.

        Titled “Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline”, the Schools, Courts, and Police agreed not to uphold the law on student offenders.
        https://goo.gl/Ewbczc

        1. Coulter in THE SCHOOL-TO-MASS-MURDER PIPELINE:
          School and law enforcement officials knew Cruz was a ticking time bomb. They did nothing because of a deliberate, willful, bragged-about policy to end the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
          In a stroke of genius, they realized that the only problem criminals have is that people keep lists of their criminal activities…
          http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2018-02-28.html

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  2. If schools made it a priority to kick out the disruptive students, ignoring the customary screams of “unfairness” and “racism,” maybe things wouldn’t get to the point where they have to call in cops.

    1. Children will test boundaries. How much of the disruptive behavior is because they don’t fear the consequences from the school or their parents?

      1. entirely all of my disruptive behavior is *still* because I don’t fear the consequences

        1. Sorry. It should have been which is the main driver – less fear of schools or less fear of parents? I feared my parents reaction more than the school even in the days of corporal punishment and expulsion. I don’t know if my kids fear what the school will do, but I know they fear the punishment they will get at home if I get a call from the school. My wife is a teacher. She says many parents don’t care.

          1. ya I was being glib too. i definitely feared all 5’0″ of my mom more than anyone at school but I misbehaved outside of school’s reach for the most part and she never found out about 99% of our shenanigans

    2. ^^^This
      Once upon a time, I was a public high school teacher. It was a semi-rural, nearly all-white area so remove any mental image you have of inner-city gang issues. It was also before the days of widespread cops in schools.

      Discipline was horrible. They simply wouldn’t expel the problem kids. Fights would break out frequently. Older students who had repeatedly flunked a class would be mixed in with brand new freshmen and would terrorize them.

      I had a 17-year-old delinquent sitting near a 14-year-old girl. if I turned my back on the class to write on the board, he’d lean over and say something vulgar or threaten her with sexual violence. If he didn’t feel like messing with the girls, he’d threaten to beat the crap out of a 14-year-old boy. Sometimes he’d actually grab a girl inappropriately or hit a boy. I frequently sent him to the office but he’d be back the next day. It took several months of “incident documentation” before they finally removed him from my class.

      Then there was the kid who threatened to bring his rifle to class and shoot me. I reported the threat and it was ignored.

      I would have loved to have a cop in that school but it probably wouldn’t have helped. Instead of sending him to the office, they’d take him to the police station and he’d probably still be back the next day. If school discipline had any teeth, they’d get rid of the problem kids and cops wouldn’t be needed.

      Then there was the kid that threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot me

      1. Damn, I wish this system had an edit option…

      2. Government schools are child abuse.

  3. Is this harsher disclose before or after Obama ended the school to prison pipeline?

  4. SROs result in an increase in disciplinary action because the schools themselves often can’t (or won’t) discipline the kids, so the SRO is the only vehicle for discipline. Without SROs at a lot of schools, kids face no authority and no repercussions for their actions which doesn’t result in a good learning environment.

    We can get rid of SROs when school is no longer mandatory and schools can easily expel kids who consistently cause problems. But if we’re going to force kids who don’t want to go to school to go anyways, and the schools aren’t allowed to discipline them in any real way, then we need SROs.

    1. False dichotomy. The study results show that SROs become the only vehicle for discipline once they are there. Without them, schools do discipline the kids – and more often do so in ways that are appropriate to the age and maturity of the students.

      1. No, that is not what the study says.

    2. I concur.

      The issue is NOT cops in schools.

      The issue is mandatory school. You simply cannot force a human to obey forever. He/she WILL retaliate against force at some point.

      Columbine/The Civil War/WW1 to WW2 demonstrate this. Eventually force backfires in horrific ways.

      End the public school system entirely.

      1. Do you have empirical evidence?

  5. Good. SROs only endanger the children. The Parkland SRO was accused of sexually harassing one of the victims of the shooting, and he also called the shooter ‘crazy boy’. It’s easy to imagine how these people instigate vulnerable kids to conflict.

    I’ve argued with people online who support these programs and they regularly refer to kids as ‘feral’ and ‘violent’. And no one tells this this is unacceptable (other than me). They have contempt for kids and think that some kids are destined for a life of crime. Get these people out of the schools.

    Having said that, security staff hired directly by the school (not the police) are a better option if necessary.

    1. This is what “libertarian paternalism” looks like.

      “You’re too stupid to decide what’s best for your schools. I have studies to back-up my position- you only have real world experience.”

      1. Like I said, if they want security they should hire it themselves (so the employees are accountable to the school not the police). And I don’t have to remind you that the CBC voted for Biden’s harsh drug laws. Sometimes people don’t learn from their mistakes.

        1. “And I don’t have to remind you that the CBC voted for Biden’s harsh drug laws.”

          Sure, but so did almost every caucus in Congress. I get what you’re trying to say, though.

          1. And for the record, I completely agree with you on the security guard notion and personally I would not send my kid to a school filled with cops. At the same time, I can understand people in different situations who cannot afford to not send their kid to the local school district and want some kind of protection from them. Different strokes for different folks.

            Sorry about the original snotty reply

  6. There were crazy violent kids in private school, when I was a kid, too, but one of the differences in private school was that they’d get kicked out. I’m not sure they can do that in public schools, can they? It may be easier to institutionalize them in the criminal justice system than it is to kick them out of school.

    Some kids really shouldn’t be allowed in with the general population. Part of the problem with the inclusiveness of public institutions is that they’re so inclusive. If you need police there for one half of one percent of the kids who are violent, then you’ve got two violent kids for every 200 in the student body. That’s no good.

    Meanwhile, what do you do with the merely disruptive, non-violent kids in public school if you can’t kick them out for talking in class, etc.? How do you stop them from talking in class–especially if their parents don’t care? I guess some of this stuff is cultural . . .

    Anybody ever notice that the kids who talked during class were typically the kids whose parents never took them to church? Sitting still and being quiet doesn’t come naturally, but you may have to teach kids to stop sucking their thumbs and picking their noses, too.

    Make it easy for schools to kick kids out for being disruptive, and I bet it becomes much less necessary to have cops in the schools–and the movie theater. The children of non-church going shit-heads, whose parents never bothered to teach them how to shut up, may have brought down the movie industry!

    1. .005 * 200= 1 violent kid.

      Excuse my math.

    2. >>not sure they can do that in public schools

      in the 80s they were sent to the Vo-Tech or a drool school.

      1. The votech school. Where the educators where largely grown men of a blue collar background that did not take any crap from children. I am sure there was quite a bit of unreported discipline being administered to troublemakers.

    3. As a grumpy old man I know how to fix stupid. I was taught that by the men teachers and coaches. They promised us if we were stupid they would fix it but it would hurt and it did. They feely displayed the tool they used and explained how it worked. If you were stupid enough to test it they would accommodate you. If you showed disrespect to a female teacher you had a meeting with the coach and the tool in the hall. Everyone heard the consequences. School was quiet and orderly and rarely did stupid need fixed. In high school I saw a tall athletic black kid challenge a biology teacher. The teacher snatched him by the shirt, slammed him into the lockers along the wall and immediately out the door with the warning to never set foot in the class again. That was the only problem I witnessed that year. We all recieved the message clearly. Kids need discipline to gain respect and when it is lost the kids are also.

      1. They were able to use that tool on me a few times.

        But I grew bigger and stronger and trained hard.

        When I was 14 I took it and broke bones in the both the principal and the thug pastor. I walked out of that room covered in blood while their screams echoed down the hallway.

        And it felt REALLY good.

        Pastor was arrested later for child molestation and both the school and the church ended. And that felt even better.

        1. Kindly spare us the remainder of your daydreams.

          1. Google William Malgren. I helped send him to jail.

            1. The best that I can write about your claim is that you did not simply make up a random name.

      2. Where are the ‘thumbs up’ emojis on this blog? I remember only one kid in all my grade school or high school classes who was a problem, in the 8th grade, one year ahead of me, sassing back a female teacher because he was bigger and more intimidating than her. I saw it only once in the classroom, and it may have been late in the school year because it never happened again. Male principal. The same kid was not a problem in high, possibly because of the male teachers and coaches that you described; or maybe he was just properly ‘nipped in the bud.’
        Those were the days when kids ‘just naturally’ respected adults. If parents don’t nip it in the bud, it all goes to heck. Parents letting children use vulgar language is also a turning point.

  7. . . . While the initial bump in offenses could be explained simply as an effect of increased policing, the boost in recorded crimes and exclusionary responses persisted for 20 months in the schools studied. The researchers say this suggests that rather than deter crime in schools, increasing the number of SROs leads to more “formal responses to behaviors that otherwise would have been undetected or handled informally.” . . .

    The questions is is the number of SRO revealing the crimes that are being committed while without the SRO these same crimes are not being revealed? I would say that these crimes are still happening without the SRO but it is not known to the school officials so the student gets away with it.
    Another way this could be checked is is the students commiting more crimes after school with or without the SRO? If the students have have the weapons or drugs but the school does not take the weapons or drugs from the student when the student leaves school is that student with the weapon or the drugs either using the weapon to commit a crime or is the student with the drugs making a sale of the school after they leave the school.

    1. I take the word ‘crime’ here with a grain of salt.

      Telling a teacher to eff off should not result in a cop getting called. In that case, the crime was committed by the teacher who probably should just have effed off.

      1. Wrong! Letting kids talk back to teachers should be dealt with harshly. Once they know they can get away with that without punishment, Pandora’s Box has been opened forever. And that was done over 20 years ago in too many schools.

  8. Increasing the number of police in schools doesn’t make school safer and leads to harsher discipline for infractions, according to a new study in the journal Criminology & Public Policy.

    So what’s your point? Police aren’t put in schools to keep them safer, they’re put there because school administrators have abdicated any responsibility for disciplining students and you can’t kick the little fuckers out. Hell, you’ve got third-graders that talk shit to teachers and disrupt classes because they know teachers can’t do shit about it. And God forbid the school loses the funding that comes with having a warm body in a seat. So they pawn off the responsibility on the cops, who are not well-trained or equipped for this sort of job, just like they’re not well-trained or equipped to handle people with mental health issues. Cops only know one directive, obey or die, so that’s what they go with. And the school gets to act all innocent in the outcome.

  9. “Student Resource Officer,” an Orwellian title if ever there was one.

    1. It makes them sound like soylent green.

  10. Don’t put your kids in public school.

    1. Yep-we pulled ours out because they spent all the time on preparing for tests and noticed an improvement in their behavior too.

  11. Of course, nobody wants to speak the truth that if these kids’ parents were doing their job, they wouldn’t need SROs in the first place. Instead they will blame the usual suspects “inequality” and racism.

    1. could it be that inequality and racism are preventing or making it harder for parents to do their job, and putting more cops in schools does jack shit to attack the root of the problem & in fact seems to make it worse??

      1. Or, could it be that parents are simply not doing their jobs, and inequality and racism have little or nothing to do with the school discipline problem.

        1. Maybe the school has taken that responsibility by force and government toadies and their dependents still try to hold parents accountable for things they have no control over.

          End mandatory school and I will listen to this argument. Until then, parents act as they do because government agents with guns put them in the position they are in.

          1. In what way are government agents with guns involved?

  12. An SRO, a DARE cop and a DEA agent walk into a bar…

  13. Why do theses people want to repeat the same mistakes of the 70s? Leniency doesn’t work.

    1. Neither does force.

      They simply cannot agree on any other way because that means less money for the state. So we continue this stupid cycle.

      1. Force works.

        Ever heard of the Tarkin Doctrine?

  14. The problem is not the officers in the schools, it’s how they’re used. If an SRO is repeatedly used for non-criminal or minor behavioral issues rather than school staff handling it, that’s a problem. Those are not police issues. The only purpose for having an armed uniformed police officer at a school is to be the first responder to a violent incident. They shouldn’t be doing anything else if an officer will be at a school.

    1. Reduce the number of violent incidents by only having kids in the school who want to be there.

      End mandatory school.

    2. yeah how’d that work out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High? the cops are stationed in schools to dispense violence, not absorb or (lol) reduce it.

  15. This headline is a bit misleading. It really depends on the student. If you are the assaulter cops do make it less safe to assault but if you are the recipient of the assault it does make you safer.
    I am astonished they would say, The study found that increasing the number of SROs led to both immediate and persistent increases in the number of drug and weapon offenses and the number of exclusionary disciplinary actions against students.
    It goes on to explain that if the officers are not there these students don’t get arrested and charged and no one knows the difference. I would assume other students that get threatened by the armed thugs would know the difference but I guess it would make it easier for the teachers if it was all kept hidden.
    School choice is becoming the only way to educate your children. When public schools make comments like this you know public schools are lost. The left has ruined our schools and public schools and unions need to be left to fade away until a real public school system can be rebuilt that would permanently throw the thugs out of school and allow our children to get a real education without the indoctrination of the left. The private schools have little use for resource officers because the students are their to learn and the teachers to teach with no political interference or thugs attending. School vouchers for real schools is the only answer for parents.

  16. Isn’t it logical that “criminalization” of illegal behavior would increase in schools with more SROs? I’ve heard parents complain about the school doing nothing about their kids being bullied or even physically assaulted. If cops are there, they might haul them to the station.

    Is the study concluding that having more school officers was a direct cause behind more drug use or weapon offenses in schools? Or are they saying that those schools simply had more confirmed cases for such incidents? Did SROs reduce student altercation or threats to teachers?

    But maybe it doesn’t matter, because SROs shouldn’t be in most schools anyways. Let the district hire private security guards if they want to, so they can fire them or sue them more easily. If they won’t, then the teachers and the students are on their own.

    1. Bullies are cowards. They only pick on kids when they have the implied approval of the local authority (the school or the cops or their parents).

      This is why complaining to the school about bullying goes nowhere.

      The authority thinks your kid ‘deserves it’ or it never would have happened in the first place.

      The answer is to eliminate authority without consent of the governed. So long as schools are paid for by force (property tax) and attendance is forced, this issue cannot go away and must continue to escalate until the kids or the authority are removed (Columbine).

  17. This is exactly the kind of asinine study that liberals would use to justify predetermined opinions. OF COURSE more SROs leads to more crime- because you’re actually catching people. The question is does it DETER crime or at least punish it? Do schools without SROs have higher dropout rates, instances of bullying, GPAs, standardized test scores? Do the students and teachers feel safer? There are a thousand moving pieces here, but it should be obvious that the more authority your remove, the more crimes will be committed but not found.

    1. This is the issue.

      The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that humans are endowed with individual rights including the right to consent or dissent against authority.

      We have a duty to alter or abolish unjust (without consent) authority.

      The authority to create the school is unjust. It comes from a Progressive socialist property tax and is enforced by the same. The entire public school system is wrong because it is funded by theft.

      The need for SROs stems from this. It is circular logic. You simply cannot fix this without dealing with the root of the problem, property taxes. It is that tax that both makes the parents not care and entitles the school administration to be violent. The kids in public schools get pinched in the middle and cannot win no matter what they do.

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  20. While the initial bump in offenses could be explained simply as an effect of increased policing, the boost in recorded crimes and exclusionary responses persisted for 20 months in the schools studied. The researchers say this suggests that rather than deter crime in schools, increasing the number of SROs leads to more “formal responses to behaviors that otherwise would have been undetected or handled informally.”

    And why is this a bad thing? You think that undetected or informally handled bullying, violence, or drug use is a good thing? What’s the logic here?

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  22. The point of armed cop in school is to defend the children against deranged maniacs shooting the children.
    While school shootings are rare, the consequences are severe.
    So having an armed person to respond immediately is a great idea.

    Here in Florids, we have a law that every school must have an armed guardian.
    It can be a police officer, a private security guard or a non classroom school employee.
    If the parents don’t want police in schools, an armed guardian has no responsibility for student discipline.

    1. I think its a case of mission creep.

      The cops were there to protect kids from maniacs but the teachers kept calling the cops for lower and lower level offences until the police became the default discipline.

      I don’t blame the cops. I blame the school system that forces kids to be around cops.

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