Making Schools Safer and/or Escalating Disciplinary Response: A Study of Police Officers in North Carolina Schools

Research Rundown Issue: April '21
Publisher: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Date Published: May '20


A 2020 study used disciplinary, academic, juvenile justice, and adult conviction data from North Carolina to estimate the effects that school resource officers (SROs) had in middle schools. Looking at both short and long-term outcomes in educational attainment and the adult criminal justice system, the researchers found that while SROs reduce the incidence of serious violence on school grounds, other outcomes are neutral or negative. They have no effect on weapon, drug, or alcohol offenses, and SRO presence substantially increases the use of out-of-school suspensions for Latino and Black students, as well as the use of transfers to alternative schools and expulsions for Black students and the number of overall referrals to law enforcement. These findings can help districts determine how to evaluate and structure alternatives to SROs.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

This study highlights the importance of supporting students and understanding how school policies contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. There must be intentional and collaborative work done between youth, families, and educators to create environments that are student-centered. For example, after Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools ended their SRO contracts, they received backlash for who they hired in their stead—indicating that there is more work to do to build an effective student-centered approach.

But SROs are only one part of a larger school-to-prison pipeline system, which has resulted in students of color, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities being disproportionately suspended and expelled. This year, Minnesota House and Senate are considering expanding on a prekindergarten ban on suspensions —which was passed last session—by now requiring it to be from prekindergarten through third grade. There are also other impactful proposals on the table, looking at nonexclusionary discipline practices, parental notification rights, and guidance for schools on restorative discipline practices.

Read the study