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The Thin Blue Line in Schools: New Evidence on School-Based Policing

While school resource officers (SROs) have become more prevalent in recent years, educators and advocates have questioned whether the presence of these officers affects classroom environments and academic performance. 

In a new working paper from the Annenberg Institute, Lucy C. Sorensen, Montserrat Avila Acosta and Shawn Bushway of the University at Albany, SUNY and John Engberg of the RAND Corporation found that SROs have mixed effects on violence and their presence resulted in more disciplinary actions taken against students. 

Using school-level data from 2014 through 2018, the authors found that the officers helped decrease some forms of violence, such as unarmed confrontations; but instances of gun-related violence actually increased, possibly due to more reporting. Additionally, disciplinary actions such as out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests rose for all students . The infraction rates were highest among Black students, male students, and students with disabilities.

This study’s findings provide administrators and education leaders with important data as schools across the country reassess their financial, academic, and community investments in school-based policing.

Read the full report


-Nathan Kriha