This report presents the methodology and findings of a research project with the objective of understanding how perceptions and the organization of school safety and security are associated with the level and type of law enforcement engagement in rural schools.
The social-ecological theory of violence prevention guided the research by predicting that an interplay of factors at multiple levels influences the type and level of law enforcement engagement in rural schools. A triangulation mixed methods design was used to collect and analyze individual, school, and community quantitative and qualitative data. The results were used to create a taxonomy that describes how rural law enforcement agencies and personnel engage with schools in rural areas. Each school in the dataset was assigned a level and type of law enforcement engagement based on this taxonomy. The data suggest a framework of rural law enforcement and school engagement based on both agency commitment of personnel and the level of engagement with school safety activity. The resulting rural School Resource Officer (SRO) differs from that typically seen in other contexts. Rural SROs placed within rural districts through formal agreements serve multiple schools within the districts in addition to performing other law enforcement duties. Communities with higher population, higher crime rate, and more people per officers in the area served had schools with more formal law enforcement engagement. 6 figures, 4 tables, and 9 references