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Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools

NCJ Number
Amanda Petteruti
Date Published
November 2011
43 pages
This policy paper develops the argument that law enforcement in schools administered by school resource officers (SROs), who are sworn police officers, is not the best nor most cost-effective way to achieve a secure and productive learning environment.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of SROs increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. With this rapid increase in the presence of SROs in schools, districts nationwide have found that youth are being referred to the justice system at increasing rates and for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct. Arrest and referrals to the justice system disrupt the educational process and can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other forms of alienation from school. These negative effects can set youth on a path to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later. Reported rates of school violence and theft are at the lowest levels since data were first collected by the National Center for Education Statistics in 1992, and Federal funding for policing declining, criminal justice practitioners and administrators, school officials, State policymakers, and the Federal Government are all questioning the need to continue having SROs in schools. This paper recommends removing all law enforcement officers from school; refraining from using law enforcement responses to student misbehavior; instituting a system to review the validity of arrests within the circumstances of the offense; investing in education and in prevention and intervention strategies that work; collecting more and better data; using graduated responses to student misbehavior; providing training and evaluation for any police having contact with youth, especially at school; and reducing disproportionate impacts on students of color and with disabilities. 8 figures, 1 table, and 128 notes