Last week, we rolled out the first part of a three-part package of stories on the role of law enforcement in schools. The stories center on an original analysis of federal civil rights data completed by the Education Week Research Center.
Please check out our landing page to see new school police stories as we release them. And check out what we’ve already released:
- An analysis on the debate over school police, complete with original data on racial disparities in student arrest and referral rates.
- A searchable database that allows users to explore federal data on student arrests and referrals to law enforcement at the state and local level.
- An interview with Niya Kenny, who was arrested at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina after she recorded a classmate’s violent arrest. Kenny is now a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state’s “disturbing schools” law.
- A story about ongoing research to determine how school police affect school climate.
Our analysis used the federal civil rights data collection, which was gathered from nearly every school and district in the country during the 2013-14 school year. Here are three highlights.
School Police Are Common
Nearly one in five elementary schools, 18.5 percent, reported an on-site law enforcement officer with arresting authority in 2013-14, a finding that seems to have surprised some of our readers. Among middle schools, 41.5 percent had police. And 45.9 percent of high schools had officers. The analysis excluded some schools that didn’t fit into traditional grade-span categories.
Black Students Are Most Likely to Attend Schools With Police
Education Week‘s data analysis found that 74 percent of black high school students attend a school with at least one on-site law enforcement officer, compared with 71 percent of both Hispanic and multiracial high school students, and 65 percent of both Asian and white high school students.
The disparity is more pronounced at the middle school level, where 59 percent of black students attend schools with law enforcement, compared with 49 percent of both Hispanic and multiracial students, 47 percent of white students, and 40 percent of Asian students.
Racial Disparities in School Arrests Are Widespread
In 43 states and the District of Columbia, black students are arrested at school at disproportionately high levels, our analysis found. In those states, black students made up a larger share of students arrested at school than their representation in schools with at least one arrest. In ten states, the gap was at least 20 percentage points.
Why do these disparities exist? Researchers and policymakers point to a variety of factors, including differing school discipline policies, a lack of school counselors and other resources that could help remediate student misbehavior early, implicit bias in schools, and differing student behavior.
Read the whole package for more data findings on school police and an exploration of the issue.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.