While the presence of police officers in Connecticut schools does not appear to contribute to a safer school climate or improved academic outcomes, it may contribute to more Latino students being arrested or referred to law enforcement. This study examined the impact of school resource officers, who are police officials assigned to Connecticut schools.
Schools and boards of education may request school resource officers (SROs) with aims of improving school safety and academic achievement, but the study did not find evidence of such outcomes in the 2015-16 school year. On most measures of school safety examined in the report – such as the use of weapons, drugs, or alcohol; theft; and property damage – the average numbers of incidents of such behavior did not differ significantly between schools that did and did not have SROs. Academic performance, as measured by average test scores on Smarter Balanced test scores also did not differ significantly based on the presence of SROs.
However, there is statistically significant evidence that their presence may contribute to more students experiencing discipline. Students attending schools with SROs were at greater risk of discipline overall, and the average arrest rate of Latino students at schools with an SRO was six times greater than the average arrest rate of Latino students at schools without an SRO. In addition, schools with SROs disciplined students more often for behaviors that were likely not criminal. Schools with SROs reported higher levels of school policy violations, such as skipping class, insubordination, or using profanity.
The report recommends that schools districts with SROs should have publically accessible memoranda of understanding about the role of SROs, survey students about their experiences with SROs, and share information with students and parents about students’ rights. The Connecticut General Assembly should also request a study on SROs, including a review of student discipline rates by race, gender and disability status.