U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

The Impact of School Police Reform on Student Safety and School Experiences

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $249,670)

WestEd proposes a mixed methods study to examine the impact of school police reform resulting in the removal of school police on student safety, behavior, well-being, and disciplinary outcomes. The proposed study takes advantage of the recent widespread school police reforms in California, as well as extant survey and administrative data, and will utilize a rigorous quasi-experimental study to compare school districts that removed school police during 2019–20 or 2020–21 with a matched comparison group of districts that did not remove school police. The study examines the impact of such policies on student-reported safety (violence victimization, harassment/bullying victimization), behavior (substance use, weapon carrying), and well-being (connectedness, adult supports) as well as administrative disciplinary data (exclusionary discipline and referrals to law enforcement) and how these outcomes vary by race and ethnicity. This study will also examine whether school police reform has differential impacts on the student safety, well-being, and disciplinary outcomes depending on the level of schools’ mental health supports (student-to-counselor ratio) and inclusive student supports (restorative practices). Finally, WestEd will conduct a multi-site case study and select a sample of districts based on the quantitative findings to gather qualitative data using document reviews and interviews with administrators and police leadership to identify the reasons for, and impact of, removing or retaining school police as well as policies and practices implemented as alternatives. There are no impact studies, to our knowledge, that examine the impact of removing school police or the disbanding of entire police departments. The proposed study’s findings are critical to the national growing focus on the potential detrimental effects school police may have on student outcomes—particularly for Black and Brown students—and whether there is evidence to support removing police from schools. The 2020 social and racial justice movements that carried over into school policing programs offer a unique and timely opportunity to examine such an issue and add to the theoretical and policy debate on whether school police serve as a deterrent to delinquent student behaviors or whether their presence further perpetuates the informal and formal criminalization of student behaviors, and whether such criminalization is disproportionately experienced among Black and Brown students. These findings will begin to fill these gaps and contribute to the growing discussion on how best to complement school policing programs through school mental health supports and inclusive disciplinary practices within schools and districts that chose to maintain a police presence.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2022