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Report Finds Little Academic or Safety Benefit from Police in Schools

The arrest rate for Latino students was six times higher at schools with School Resource Officers. (gerasimov174/adobestock)
The arrest rate for Latino students was six times higher at schools with School Resource Officers. (gerasimov174/adobestock)
April 19, 2019

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A new report says the presence of police officers in schools does not appear to enhance safety or improve academic achievement.

The report, from Connecticut Voices for Children, compared schools with and without School Resource Officers during the 2015 to 2016 school year. According to report co-author Camara Stokes Hudson, associate policy fellow with Connecticut Voices for Children, there was little difference between the schools in the average number of incidents involving weapons, drugs or alcohol, theft or property damage, or as measured in average Smarter Balance test scores.

But there were measurable consequences for students.

"Students attending schools with School Resource Officers were at a greater risk for discipline overall, and the average arrest rate for Latino students in schools with School Resource Officers was six times higher than schools without a School Resource Officer," says Hudson.

The report recommends that the Connecticut General Assembly request a study of School Resource Officers, including a review of student discipline rates by race, gender and disability.

A school that has School Resource Officers is supposed to have a memorandum of understanding with the police department outlining the role of those officers in the school. But Hudson says the public has no access to most of those memoranda.

"We think they should be publicly reported, accessible on school board websites, so that parents, children and teachers can have access to what School Resource Officers are supposed to be doing," says Hudson.

She adds that parents and children also need to be aware of what rights they have while inside a school.

Hudson says experiencing arrest, especially when an arrest should not occur, is very traumatizing for children, and can have lasting consequences.

"Even one arrest can result in reduced access to future educational and employment opportunities," says Hudson. “And we know that often times racial and ethnic disparities are exacerbated in those kinds of arrests, and this study in some ways reflects that."

She says the report highlights the need for more discussion about the role of police in schools and for a thorough investigation of their impact on students and on school safety.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT