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The Third Administrator? Perceptions of School Resource Officers in Predominantly White Elementary Schools

NCJ Number
Educational Administration Quarterly Volume: 59 Issue: 3 Dated: 2023 Pages: 633-666
Date Published
34 pages

This study examined how school resource officers (SROs) are perceived in predominantly White elementary schools.


This study focuses on school resource officers (SROs), which have become increasingly common in suburban, predominately White elementary schools because, absent law enforcement responsibilities, little is known about SROs in these settings. The authors examine perceptions of SRO impacts while exploring differences across roles and between White and non-White participants. The authors question the appropriateness of SROs inclusion in collective leadership, suggesting school leaders not rely on SROs for non-law enforcement duties, if at all. The results have implications for future collective leadership studies and understanding why efforts to remove police from schools have often stalled. The authors describe seven domains of SRO impacts ranging from school climate to learning environments. SROs are often seen as providing general assistance similar to a vice principal, with some describing SROs as an auxiliary “third administrator.” In addition, SROs tend to over-estimate their positive effects compared to school-based stakeholders and underestimate their role in student discipline compared to non-White stakeholders.  While studies of collective leadership tend to focus on administrators and teachers, schools have other staff present that contribute to leadership in ways that affect the students. Understanding that SROs in elementary schools can be seen as part of schools’ collective leadership helps us to understand the influence they have on students and the school environment. The study is mixed methods, drawing on interviews, focus groups, and surveys of SROs, administrators, teachers, students, and parents. The setting is a suburban county with SROs in all elementary schools.  (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023