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

“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.”

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