Friday, February 17, 2017

School Resource Officers, Exclusionary Discipline, and the Role of Context

Author: Benjamin W. Fisher

This research focused on two studies of different school factors linked to increased rates of exclusionary discipline: school resource officers (SROs) and zero-tolerance approaches to discipline.
The SRO study provided evidence that implementing SROs led to decreases in schools’ overall suspension rates, as well as rates for Black students. However, it was not associated with changes to White students’ suspension rate or changes within-school racial disparities in suspension rates. It also indicated that school context variables were predictive of school’s suspension rates and racial disparities.

The findings from the zero-tolerance study indicated that schools with a higher zero-tolerance approach to discipline tended to have higher overall rates of exclusionary discipline, providing no evidence that this orientation toward discipline had a deterrent effect on students’ problem behaviors. Moreover, this relationship did not depend on the presence of SROs, suggesting that across all schools in the sample, the impact of schools’ zero-tolerance approach to discipline on overall rates of exclusionary discipline was consistent across schools with and without SROs.

The study also found that when schools were characterized by higher levels of racial/ethnic minority students or other measures of disadvantage, the combination of a high zero-tolerance approach to discipline and SRO presence was predictive of higher overall rates of exclusionary discipline. However, when schools were characterized by lower levels of disadvantage, this combination was associated with lower rates of exclusionary discipline.

Together, these studies suggest that SROs and zero-tolerance approaches to discipline may not be universally appropriate mechanisms for reducing rates of exclusionary discipline. Instead, school context is an important consideration when forming strategies to reduce student exclusions.

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