Research Report: The Expanding Presence of Law Enforcement in Florida Schools

Research Report: The Expanding Presence of Law Enforcement in Florida Schools

The presence of law enforcement in public schools has been a common security practice in the state of Florida for several decades. Following the tragic 2018 school shooting in Parkland, FL, the state passed a law requiring all public schools to either have law enforcement or other armed personnel present. Drawing on state-wide data for the school years 2014-15 through 2018-19, this report examined the relationship between law enforcement in schools and a number of outcomes including reports of behavioral incidents to the state, incidents reported to law enforcement, school arrests, and exclusionary discipline. This analysis used statistical techniques that controlled for both observable characteristics of districts and schools as well as unobserved characteristics that were fixed over time. Findings suggest that the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act significantly increased the presence of law enforcement in schools, particularly in elementary schools. The presence of law enforcement in schools was related to increases in the number of behavioral incidents reported to the state, the number of such incidents reported to law enforcement, and student arrests. The results suggest a need to reconsider whether law enforcement should be present in schools, and, if they are, how they can be implemented in a way that minimizes unnecessary exposure of students to law enforcement and arrests.

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Video Policy Briefs

What are SROs and Why are They in Schools?
Center Co-Director and Associate Professor, F. Chris Curran, explains what school resource officers (SROs) are and why they are an increasingly common fixture in schools.

 

School Resource Officers and School Discipline
Center Co-Director and Associate Professor, F. Chris Curran, discusses the roles of school resource officers (SROs) in the school discipline system.

 

School Resource Officers and Student Interactions
Center Co-Director and Associate Professor, F. Chris Curran, discusses the ways that SROs engage with students and the potential implications.

 

Research Study: Mass School Shootings and the Short-Run Impacts on Use of School Security Measures and Practices: National Evidence from the Columbine Tragedy

Following high-profile school shootings, policymakers and educators seek ways to prevent such shootings, but there has been little research on school-level responses in the immediate aftermath of such events. This study examines how school-level security measures and practices changed after the 1999 Columbine shooting using a nationally representative sample of elementary school principals from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (N = 810). Exploiting variation in the timing of survey completion relative to the Columbine shooting, we used regression analysis to examine the use of seven security measures and practices before and after Columbine. Elementary schools were 16 percentage points more likely to lock exits after Columbine and, over time, were more likely to use visitor sign in procedures. School racial/ethnic composition had a moderating effect in some models. Implications for policy and schools are discussed.

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