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The Effectiveness of School Resource Officers in Tennessee High Schools

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $32,000)

Although school resource officers (SROs) have been implemented to address school violence, their increased presence has brought to light other relevant issues, particularly around student discipline. Empirical research on this topic is scant and lacks methodological rigor. Additionally, relevant theoretical frameworks provide conflicting expectations, with some suggesting that SROs may increase exclusionary discipline and have disproportionately negative effects on students of color. Therefore, this study will test the following two hypotheses: (a) implementing SROs will lead to an increase in overall rates of exclusionary discipline, and (b) implementing SROs will lead to disproportionately high rates of exclusionary discipline of students of color. The first two semesters of the project will be devoted to data collection. I will collect school budgets from individual counties for every high school in Tennessee (N = 318) from 2000 to 2012 to assess when schools funded SROs. Student discipline data disaggregated by race will be compiled from publicly available on the Tennessee Department of Educations website. I will also compile publicly available school and community characteristics from the Common Core of Data and U.S. Census website. I will model these data as a comparative interrupted time-series, widely considered among the strongest designs for longitudinal data when true experimentation is not possible. Within this framework, I will use segmented regression to estimate trends in exclusionary discipline rates before and after SRO implementation and compare those results to matched comparison schools without SROs. These analyses will examine overall effects and any differential effects based on student race/ethnicity. The analyses will be further strengthened by the use of propensity scores to ensure that the comparison group of schools is well matched to schools that implemented SROs. These multiple comparisons (across time and across schools) will permit strong causal inferences about the effect of SROs on exclusionary discipline. Upon completion of data analysis, I will prepare my dissertation, which I anticipate publishing as empirical articles in academic journals and presenting at national conferences. I also will draft relevant policy briefs for the Tennessee Department of Education and provide them with a timeline of SRO implementation in Tennessee high schools for use in future analysis and policy work. The results of this study may help to resolve theoretical tensions, provide guidance for future evaluations of SROs, and aid policymakers and practitioners who deal with SROs. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 14, 2014