By Dr. Timothy Servoss,
Associate Professor of Psychology at Canisius College,Buffalo, New York,
and co-leader of the “School Security Measures” research meeting
sponsored by the Spencer Foundation in Washington, D.C. in the Fall of 2018.
Effective partnerships between schools and law enforcement are essential for producing safe and healthy environments. To determine the effectiveness of these partnerships, research must be conducted. Let’s look at two areas where we have research findings related to school-law enforcement interaction: 1) Student perceptions of School Resource Officers (SROs); and ) Student arrests, and how they relate to SROs and the role of enforcing school discipline.
One thing that SROs can take away from recent research about this partnership is an awareness and appreciation of the diversity of student perceptions regarding SRO presence in the school. An SRO may be viewed as a protector, helper or mentor by some students. But SROs may be seen by other students as a threat, nuisance, or just another power-hungry adult in the school who is there to hassle them. Because an SRO is there, some students may feel safer; because an SRO needs to be there, some students may feel less safe.
What about SRO roles and student arrests? Research using the most recent national data provides a clear answer here. Schools where SROs are involved in school discipline arrest significantly more students than schools where SROs do not take on this disciplinary role. Other roles that SROs commonly take on, such as security enforcement and patrol, coordinating with local police or emergency teams, mentoring students, and student/teacher education are not associated with increases in student arrests. Bottom line, SROs should avoid getting involved in school discipline.
While research on school-based law enforcement continues, SROs, educators, and researchers need to work together to figure out how learnings are applied to make schools safer and, at the same time, help get students the supports they need to stay in school and out of involvement with the justice system.
For more on SRO research, click on PUBLICATIONS and see the article "How SRO Programs Can Benefit from Research" by Tim Servoss and John Rosiak, published in the Summer 2019 Issue of the Journal of School Safety.