Courtesy of CT Voices for Children

NEW HAVEN, CT — The presence of police officers in Connecticut schools has resulted in more Latino students being arrested or referred to law enforcement, according to a study by Connecticut Voices for Children.

The study examined the impact of school resource officers (SROs), who are police officials assigned to Connecticut schools.

While just 24% of Connecticut schools have a school resource officer, the number of such officers increased by 29% between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 school years, the last for which data has been tracked. Larger schools are more likely to have SROs than smaller schools.

Students attending schools with SROs were at greater risk of discipline overall, and the average arrest rate of Latino students at schools with an SRO was six times greater than the average arrest rate of Latino students at schools without an SRO, according to the study.

“While many schools look to school resource officers to improve school safety and education outcomes, these findings are troubling evidence that their presence may contribute to increased discipline for minor offenses and far greater arrest rates for Latino students,” Camara Stokes Hudson, associate policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, said.

For Black, White, and Asian students, all groups showed higher numbers of referrals to law enforcement in schools where SROs were present, but the study found this relationship may not be exclusively due to the presence of an SRO.

“We need to ensure that the presence of SROs does not lead to unnecessary discipline or exacerbate existing inequalities in our education system,” Stokes Hudson added.

To find the incident reports Connecticut Voices for Children used to reach their conclusions, go to edsight.ct.gov. To find the incident reports, search under the student tab for “Discipline” and click on “Incidents” in the left panel. To find your school district, use the drop-down menu in the center of the page.

Schools and boards of education may request school resource officers in an effort to improve school safety and academic achievement, but the study did not find evidence of such outcomes in the 2015-16 school year.

On most measures of school safety it examined — such as the use of weapons, drugs, or alcohol; theft; and property damage — the average numbers of incidents of such behavior did not differ significantly between schools that did or did not have SROs present.

Academic performance, as measured by average test scores, also did not differ significantly based on the presence of SROs.

Schools with SROs reported higher levels of school policy violations, such as skipping class, insubordination, or use of profanity.

It is not clear from available data whether SROs participated in reporting these policy violations.

The report recommended that schools districts with SROs should have publicly accessible memoranda of understanding about the role of SROs, survey students about their experiences with SROs, and share information with students and parents about students’ rights.

The organization also recommends that the General Assembly request a study of SROs, including a review of student discipline rates by race, gender, and disability status.

“These steps can help to ensure that students, parents, and school staff have an informed understanding of the role of school resource officers in their school and the potential impact interactions with SROs may have on different students,” Lauren Ruth, advocacy director at Connecticut Voices for Children, said.

“We need further investigation to explore how Connecticut children perceive their experiences with SROs and to understand how children may be affected by attending a school with an SRO versus a security guard.”