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Improving Understanding of Law Enforcement at Schools - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety

On February 16-18, 2021, the National Institute of Justice hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools. This video includes the following presentations: 

A Taxonomy of Law Enforcement Engagement in Rural Schools, Mario Scalora

School Resource Officers in Suburban Elementary Schools, F. Chris Curran

SROs are now as common in suburban schools as they are in city schools, and elementary schools have seen significant increases in SRO presence. This presentation presents findings from a mixed-methods study of SRO expansion in suburban elementary schools. The findings document why SROs were expanded in this context, the daily roles and activities of SROs in this setting, and how their presence relates to student outcomes. The findings point to how tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting prompted expansion of SROs in this setting and how this focus on safety from external threats shapes their perspectives on using law enforcement and disciplinary action toward students. Implications for ongoing policy discussions around SROs are discussed.

Is It All Just Law Enforcement? Understanding the Diverse Roles of Police in Schools, Benjamin Fisher

One of the purported benefits of school resource officers (SROs) is that they engage in tasks unrelated to law enforcement such as providing mentoring and education to students. Still, little is known about SROs' motivations and rationales for engaging in these various activities. Using interview data from 26 SROs in a single large urban school district, this study examines how SROs talk about their various roles in the school and what guides their actions. The study's findings indicate that SROs use crime-control logics to motivate nearly all of their actions in schools, even actions as simple as giving high-fives or telling jokes to students. These pervasive crime control logics represent a form of school criminalization and have implications for student and schools, particularly in regard to racial equity.

School Resource Officer (SRO) Roles and Training: Perspectives from the Field, Gerard Lawson and Laura Welfare

School Resource Officers serve an invaluable role in supporting the school community. This research provides insight into the training provided and needed, and tasks that SROs are asked to balance in their role. Our quantitative findings helped to highlight the specific training that SROs bring to their work in the schools and what is still needed, and how their roles are understood by multiple stakeholders. And our qualitative findings bring the voice of exemplary SROs in how they manage their multiple roles.

Date Published: February 18, 2021