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Understanding the Adoption, Function, and Consequences of School Resource Officer Use in Understudied Settings

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $623,047)

Statement of the Problem: The involvement of law enforcement in schools has never been higher than it is today, with law enforcement now present in a majority of public schools nationwide. However, to date there has been very little systematic empirical research that has documented the reasons why law enforcement personnel become involved with schools, what they do in schools, and the impacts they may have on schools and their constituent stakeholders. This study seeks to investigate a common but understudied approach to school safety-the use of school resource officers (SROs)-within a setting that has received almost no attention in the empirical literature: elementary schools in a largely affluent, safe, high-performing school district. We examine the use of SROs in two medium-sized suburban school districts in the South that have considerable variability among schools along dimensions of student demographics, income, and rurality. One of the districts recently expanded the use of SROs to all elementary schools in the district. Our work addresses the following three questions: 1) Why and through what process were SROs implemented? 2) What roles and activities do SROs engage in within schools? 3) What impacts do SROs have on schools and students? 4) How do the roles and impacts of SROs differ across school contexts? We will interview all of the districts' SROs (n=41), a sample of teachers and school leaders, and a sample of students and parents. In addition, we will conduct full day observations of each of the SROs as well as have SROs complete time logs in which they document their activities over a two week period. The interview and observation data will be supplemented with surveys of SROs and other stakeholders as well as analysis of official policy documents such as the memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school district. Qualitative analysis of each of these data sources will allow for a rich picture of the day to day activities of SROs and the implications of their use in the previously understudied domains of suburban schools and elementary grade levels. Results will be disseminated via academic journal articles, conference presentations, interactive websites, policy briefs, and other mediums. De-identified qualitative data will be publicly archived for future research. Findings have the potential to inform policy and practice with regard to SRO use in settings that are increasingly experiencing the presence of SROs. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 14, 2016