The presence of law enforcement officers in schools is more pronounced today than ever before, altering the educational experiences of students nationwide. Although the benefits of having police in schools are unclear, the legal and policy implications flowing into students' lives are more established. Empirical studies repeatedly have documented a strong connection between regular police contact with schools and the increased rate at which school officials report students to law enforcement for committing various offenses, including lower-level offenses that arguably could be handled internally. This Article provides the first in-depth empirical study of data spanning a decade that identifies characteristics of schools more likely to have regular contact with law enforcement. Our analyses reveal that a school's sustained contact with law enforcement is not as heavily influenced by the factors one might presume or the normative literature supports, such as actual school disorder and perceived external threats. Instead, our analyses suggest that the primary drivers relate to, in one form or another, perceived internal threats of disruption and violence by the students themselves. Relatedly, and even more troubling, our findings suggest that student race influences decisionmaking. For example, the concentration of African-American students in a school was associated with regular law enforcement contact, even after controlling for school disorder, perceptions of neighborhood crime, school size, and other school characteristics. This finding comports with other empirical studies suggesting that individuals may implicitly associate areas populated with larger concentrations of African Americans with disorder, danger, and crime.
Jason P. Nance & Michael Heise,
Students, Threat, Race, and Police: An Empirical Study,
50 Fla. St. U. L. Rev.