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School Resource Officers and the Criminalization of Student Behavior

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 37 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2009 Pages: 280-287
Matthew T. Theriot
Date Published
June 2009
8 pages
This study examined the role of school resource officers (SROs) in criminalizing student behavior.
The findings show that school resource officers (SROs) were not associated with an increase in total arrests when controlling for school poverty and schools with an SRO had fewer arrests for weapons and assault charges were encouraging. The results were contrary to the criminalization hypothesis and may even signify that SROs have a positive impact at schools. SROs in the United States are typically employed by a local law enforcement agency and assigned to work in a school or schools. They perform traditional law enforcement functions like patrolling school buildings and grounds, investigating criminal complaints, handling students who violate school rules or laws, and trying to minimize disruptions during the school day and after-school activities. As SRO programs continue to be widely implemented, there is concern that an increasing police presence at schools will "criminalize" student behavior by moving problematic students to the juvenile justice system. To address this issue, this study evaluated the impact of SROs on school-based arrest rates by comparing arrests at 13 schools with an SRO to 15 schools without an SRO in the same district. Tables, notes, and references