The Prevalence of School Resource Officers in North Carolina's Public Schools

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2021-05-03

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Abstract

No one knows how many of North Carolina’s public schools have school resource officers (SROs) assigned to them or the impact their presence has on students. For the last decade, policymakers have expanded funding and support for increasing the presence of SROs statewide, yet the state’s Department of Public Instruction does not collect information about SRO assignment from school districts. To address this crucial data need, this report assesses the prevalence of SROs in North Carolina and analyzes it based on school characteristics.

To determine which schools had SROs assigned on a full-time, part-time, or rotating basis, I contacted every school district in the state. With 95 of 115 districts responding, I estimated the percentage of schools with SROs and the percentage of the state’s students attending those schools. I also estimated the prevalence of SROs based on schools’ racial demographics, rates of economic disadvantage and chronic absenteeism, and school level (elementary, middle, high).

Approximately 79 percent of schools — serving 84 percent of North Carolina’s students — have SROs assigned on at least a rotating basis. It can be said with certainty that between 62 and 84 percent schools — serving between 66 and 87 percent of students — have SROs. Almost all middle and high schools have SROs assigned, along with two-thirds of elementary schools. SROs appear to be more prevalent at majority white schools and schools with high rates of chronic absenteeism than at majority non-white schools and schools with low chronic absenteeism. SRO prevalence is similar at schools with high and low rates of economic disadvantage.

Determining the prevalence of SROs statewide is the first step in determining the impact of their presence on students. Existing empirical evidence suggests the presence of SROs does not improve middle school safety and increases the criminalization of student behavior, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. Stakeholders should use this report as a starting point to evaluate whether this holds true for all of North Carolina’s students, informing decisions about whether to add or remove SROs from the state’s public schools.

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Dukes, Katie (2021). The Prevalence of School Resource Officers in North Carolina's Public Schools. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22744.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.