From the Field

The Effects of Police Violence on Inner-City Students

Download PDF

What effect does police violence have on the psychological and educational well-being of inner-city high school students? Desmond Ang, assistant professor in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, set out to answer that question in a new study, The Effects of Police Violence on Inner-City Students.

Ang was able to pinpoint how close 700,000 students lived to locations where 627 officer-involved killings occurred. He found that, in the days immediately following such incidents, student absenteeism rose among the students who lived closest. Moreover, students who lived within a half-mile of a police killing experienced decreases in grade point averages, and those exposed to police violence in the 9th grade were less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college.

The effects of police violence reach further than the classroom and grade-book, though. Ang discovered that students exposed to police violence were more likely to receive an emotional disturbance diagnosis. These negative outcomes appeared most predominantly among Hispanic and Black students, and were strongest when the shooting involved an unarmed victim. Ang discovered no significant impact on white or Asian students.

In the wake of the George Floyd’s killing and other deaths in police custody, schools should consider the impact such events have on their students.

By Caroline Berner