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School Resource Officers, Exclusionary Discipline, and the Role of Context

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2016
134 pages
This two-part study included the use of 14 years of suspension data from 55 Tennessee high schools that implemented school resource officers (SROs) at some point during the 14 years and 55 high schools that did not have SROs, with attention to the impact of implementing SROs on overall student suspension rates, White students' suspension rates, Black students' suspension rates, and a ratio of racial disparities in suspension rates.

Overall, this first study provides evidence that implementing SROs led to decreases in schools' overall suspension rates as well as those of Black students, but was not associated with changes to White students' suspension rate or within-school racial disparities in suspension rates. Findings also indicate that school context variables were predictive of school's suspension rates and racial disparities, but did not provide evidence that the impact of SROs was dependent upon measures of school context. A second study examined the link between both SRO presence and schools' zero-tolerance approach to discipline and schools' rates of exclusionary discipline (suspension) using a nationally representative sample of public high schools. The findings from this study indicate that schools with a higher zero-tolerance approach to discipline tended to have higher overall rates of exclusionary discipline, providing no evidence that this orientation toward discipline had a deterrent effect on students' problem behaviors; however, this conclusion is only tentative in the absence of longitudinal data. Moreover, this relationship did not depend on the presence of SROs, suggesting that across all schools in the sample, the impact of schools' zero-tolerance approach to discipline on overall rates of exclusionary discipline was consistent across schools with and without SROs. Both studies indicate that school context is important to consider when examining exclusionary discipline. 17 figures, 8 tables, 97 references, and appended correlations between two models of propensity score estimation and suspension rates and variables used in study 2 propensity score estimation

Date Published: May 1, 2016