Cover: The Thin Blue Line in Schools

The Thin Blue Line in Schools

New Evidence on School-Based Policing Across the U.S.

Published in: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (2023). doi: 10.1002/pam.22498

Posted on Sep 11, 2023

by Lucy C. Sorensen, Montserrat Avila-Acosta, John Engberg, Shawn D. Bushway

U.S. public school students increasingly attend schools with sworn law enforcement officers present. Yet little is known about how these school resource officers (SROs) affect school environments or student outcomes. Our study uses a fuzzy regression discontinuity (RD) design with national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 to estimate the impacts of SRO placement. We construct this discontinuity based on the application scores for federal school-based policing grants of linked police agencies. We find that SROs effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent gun-related incidents. We also find that SROs intensify the use of suspension, expulsion, police referral, and arrest of students. These increases in disciplinary and police actions are consistently largest for Black students, male students, and students with disabilities.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.