Many U.S. schools use visible security measures (security cameras, metal detectors, security personnel) in an effort to keep schools safe and promote adolescents’ academic success. This study examined how different patterns of visible security utilization were associated with U.S. middle and high school students’ academic performance, attendance, and postsecondary educational aspirations. The data for this study came from two large national surveys—the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (N = 38,707 students; 51 % male, 77 % White, MAge = 14.72) and the School Survey on Crime and Safety (N = 10,340 schools; average student composition of 50 % male, 57 % White). The results provided no evidence that visible security measures had consistent beneficial effects on adolescents’ academic outcomes; some security utilization patterns had modest detrimental effects on adolescents’ academic outcomes, particularly the heavy surveillance patterns observed in a small subset of high schools serving predominantly low socioeconomic students. The findings of this study provide no evidence that visible security measures have any sizeable effects on academic performance, attendance, or postsecondary aspirations among U.S. middle and high school students.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Although it is possible for the same adolescent to have been interviewed across multiple data collection periods, the national sampling frame of the SCS surveys means the probability of such overlap is small and the de-identified nature of the data makes it impossible to discern whether the same students were surveyed in multiple years.
Although the SSOCS surveys include Common Core of Data identification numbers that allow linkage of SSOCS respondents (i.e., schools) longitudinally over time, the national sampling frame of the SSOCS surveys means that the probability is quite small for any overlap of schools across survey years.
Indeed, this quasi-experimental design can minimize the impact of selection bias and confounding even more than simply using the baseline covariates as statistical controls in the regression models. This latter approach would not account for variability in the magnitude or direction of the effects of those covariates across the different security utilization patterns.
Addington, L. A. (2009). Cops and cameras: Public school security as a policy response to Columbine. American Behavioral Scientist, 52, 1426–1446. doi:10.1177/0002764209332556.
Becker, G. S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. The Journal of Political Economy, 76, 169–217. doi:10.1086/259394.
Beger, R. R. (2003). The “worst of both worlds”: School security and the disappearing fourth amendment rights of students. Criminal Justice Review, 28, 336–354. doi:10.1177/073401680302800208.
Bosworth, K., Ford, L., & Hernandaz, D. (2011). School climate factors contributing to student and faculty perceptions of safety in select Arizona schools. Journal of School Health, 81, 194–201. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00579.x.
Bowen, N. K., & Bowen, G. L. (1999). Effects of crime and violence in neighborhoods and schools on the school behavior and performance of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 47, 319–342. doi:10.1177/0743558499143003.
Bracy, N. L. (2011). Student perceptions of high-security school environments. Youth & Society, 43, 365–395. doi:10.1177/0044118X10365082.
Bradshaw, C. P., Sawyer, A. L., & O’Brennan, L. M. (2009). A social disorganization perspective on bullying-related attitudes and behaviors: The influence of school context. American Journal of Community Psychology, 43, 204–220. doi:10.1007/s10464-009-9240-1.
Brady, K. P., Balmer, S., & Phenix, D. (2007). School-police partnership effectiveness in urban schools: An analysis of New York City’s impact schools initiative. Education and Urban Society, 39, 455–478. doi:10.1177/0013124507302396.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Brown, B. (2005). Controlling crime and delinquency in the schools: An exploratory study of student perceptions of school security measures. Journal of School Violence, 4, 105–125. doi:10.1300/J202v04n04_07.
Burrow, J. D., & Apel, R. (2008). Youth behavior, school structure, and student risk of victimization. Justice Quarterly, 25, 349–380. doi:10.1080/07418820802025181.
Card, N. A., & Hodges, E. V. E. (2008). Peer victimization among schoolchildren: Correlations, causes, consequences, and considerations in assessment and intervention. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 451–461. doi:10.1037/a0012769.
Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–608. doi:10.2307/2094589.
Cook, P. J., Gottfredson, D.C., & Na, C. (2010). School crime control and prevention. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research, Vol. 39.
Coon, J. K. (2004). The adoption of crime prevention technologies in public schools (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati).
Debnam, K. J., Johnson, S. L., Waasdorp, T. E., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2013). Equity, connection, and engagement in the school context to promote positive youth development. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24, 447–459. doi:10.1111/jora.12083.
Eaton, D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J., et al. (2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2009). Schools, academic motivation, and stage-environment fit. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (pp. 404–434). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. doi:10.1002/978047479193.adlpsy00101.
Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as developmental contexts during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 225–241. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00725.x.
Finn, P., & McDevitt, J. (2005). National assessment of school resource officer programs. Washington, DC: Final project report prepared for the National Institute of Justice.
Fletcher, A., Bonell, C., & Hargreaves, J. (2008). School effects on young people’s drug use: A systematic review of intervention and observational studies. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 209–220. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.09.020.
Fuentes, A. (2011). Lockdown high: When the schoolhouse becomes a jailhouse. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books.
Garcia, C. A. (2003). School safety technology in America: Current use and perceived effectiveness. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 14, 30–54. doi:10.1177/0887403402250716.
Goldstein, S. E., Young, A., & Boyd, C. (2008). Relational aggression at school: Associations with school safety and social climate. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 641–654. doi:10.1007/s10964-007-9192-4.
Gottfredson, G. D., Gottfredson, D. C., Payne, A. A., & Gottfredson, N. (2005). School climate predictors of school disorder: Results from a national study of delinquency prevention in schools. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42, 412–444. doi:10.1177/0022427804271931.
Graham, J. W. (2009). Missing data analysis: Making it work in the real world. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 549–576. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085530.
Guo, S., & Fraser, M. W. (2010). Propensity score analysis: Statistical methods and applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hankin, A., Hertz, M., & Simon, T. (2011). Impacts of metal detector use in schools: Insights from 15 years of research. Journal of School Health, 81, 100–106. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00566.x.
Hirano, K., & Imbens, G. W. (2004). The propensity score with continuous treatments. In A. G. X. L. Meng (Ed.), Applied Bayesian modeling and causal inference from incomplete-data perspectives (pp. 73–84). Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Hirschfield, P. J. (2008). Preparing for prison? The criminalization of school discipline in the USA. Theoretical Criminology, 12, 79–101. doi:10.1177/1362480607085795.
Hirschfield, P. (2010). School surveillance in America: Disparate and unequal. In T. Monahan & R. D. Torres (Eds.), Schools under surveillance: Cultures of control in public education (pp. 38–54). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Hurst, Y. G., & Frank, J. (2000). How kids view cops: The nature of juvenile attitudes toward the police. Journal of Criminal Justice, 28, 189–202. doi:10.1016/S0047-2352(00)00035-0.
Imai, K., & Van Dyk, D. A. (2004). Causal inference with general treatment regimes: Generalizing the propensity score. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 99, 854–866. doi:10.1198/016214504000001187.
Jackson, A. (2002). Police-school resource officers’ and students’ perception of the police and offending. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 25, 631–650. doi:10.1108/13639510210437078.
Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
Kupchik, A. (2010). Homeroom security: School discipline in an age of fear. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Kupchik, A., & Monahan, T. (2006). The New American School: Preparation for post-industrial discipline. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 27, 617–631. doi:10.1080/01425690600958816.
Kupchik, A., & Ward, G. (2014). Race, poverty, and exclusionary school security: An empirical analysis of U.S. elementary, middle, and high schools. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 12, 332–354. doi:10.1177/1541204013503890.
Lacoe, J. (2013). Too scared to learn? The academic consequences of feeling unsafe at school (IESP Working Paper #02-13). New York, NY: New York University, Institute for Education and Social Policy.
Lawson, M. A., & Lawson, H. A. (2013). New conceptual frameworks for student engagement research, policy, and practice. Review of Educational Research. doi:10.3102/0034654313480891.
Lee, V. E., Bryk, A. S., & Smith, J. B. (1993). The organization of effective secondary schools. Review of Research in Education, 19, 171–267.
Lerner, R. M., & Castellino, D. R. (2002). Contemporary developmental theory and adolescence: Developmental systems and applied developmental science. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 122–135. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(02)00495-0.
Link, J. W. (2010). School resource officers in Missouri public schools: School safety and academic success. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Lindenwood University).
Lipsey, M. W., & Derzon, J. H. (1998). Predictors of violent or serious delinquency in adolescence and early adulthood: A synthesis of longitudinal research. In R. Loeber & D. P. Farrington (Eds.), Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions (pp. 86–105). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Mayer, M. J., & Leone, P. E. (1999). A structural analysis of school violence and disruption: Implications for creating safer schools. Education and Treatment of Children, 22, 333–356.
McEvoy, A., & Welker, R. (2000). Antisocial behavior, academic failure, and school climate: A critical review. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8, 130–140. doi:10.1177/106342660000800301.
Milam, A. J., Furr-Holden, C. D. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Perceived school and neighborhood safety, neighborhood violence and academic achievement in urban school children. Urban Review, 42, 458–467. doi:10.1007/s11256-010-0165-7.
Na, C., & Gottfredson, D. C. (2013). Police officers in schools: Effects on school crime and the processing of offending behaviors. Justice Quarterly, 30, 619–650. doi:10.1080/07418825.2011.615754.
Noguera, P. A. (1995). Preventing and producing violence: A critical analysis of responses to school violence. Harvard Educational Review, 65, 189–212.
Payne, A. A., & Welch, K. (2010). Modeling the effects of racial threat on punitive and restorative school discipline practices. Criminology, 48, 1019–1062. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00211.x.
Peguero, A. A., & Bracy, N. L. (2015). School order, justice, and education: Climate, discipline practices, and dropping out. Journal of Research on Adolescence. doi:10.1111/jora.12138.
Roeser, R. W., Eccles, J. S., & Sameroff, A. J. (2000). School as a context of early adolescents’ academic and social-emotional development: A summary of research findings. The Elementary School Journal, 100, 443–471. doi:10.1086/499650.
Rogers, III, R. F. (2004). A study to determine if the implementation of the school resource officer (SRO) in a county school system has been effective in providing overall positive changes in school environments that have resulted in improved scholarship and decreased adverse behaviors by students. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Tennessee).
Rubin, D. B. (1987). Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/9780470316696.
Ruddy, S. A., Neiman, S., Bauer, L., Hryczaniuk, C.A., Thomas, T.L., & Parmer, R.J. (2010). 2007–2008 School survey on crime and safety (SSOCS): Survey documentation for restricted-used data file users (NCES 2010-308). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Leffert, N., & Blyth, D. A. (2000). Contribution of developmental assets to the prediction of thriving among adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 4, 27–46. doi:10.1207/S1532480XADS0401_3.
Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7, 147–177. doi:10.1037/1082-989X.7.2.147.
Skiba, R. J., & Peterson, R. L. (2000). School discipline at a crossroads: From zero tolerance to early response. Exceptional Children, 66, 335–346.
Steinka-Fry, K. T., Fisher, B. W., & Tanner-Smith, E. E. (2015). Typologies and predictors of visible school security measures across diverse middle and high school settings. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Tanner-Smith, E. E., Fisher, B. W., & Gardella, J. H. (2015). Visible security measures and school safety: Results from two national U.S. surveys. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Tanner-Smith, E. E., & Lipsey, M. W. (2014). Identifying baseline covariates for use in propensity scores: A novel approach illustrated for a nonrandomized study of recovery high schools. Peabody Journal of Education, 89, 183–196. doi:10.1080/0161956.X2014.895647.
The White House. (2013). Now is the time (pp. 1–15). Washington, D.C.: The White House. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/wh_now_is_the_time_full.pdf
Theriot, M. T. (2009). School resource officers and the criminalization of student behavior. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, 280–287. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2009.04.008.
U.S. Department of Justice. (2009). National crime victimization survey: school crime supplement, 2007: Codebook [Computer file]. (ICPSR23041-v1). Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Programs. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor].
Wang, M.-T., & Dishion, T. J. (2011). The trajectories of adolescents’ perceptions of school climate, deviant peer affiliation, and behavioral problems during the middle school years. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22, 40–53. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00763.x.
Warnick, B. R. (2007). Surveillance cameras in schools: An ethical analysis. Harvard Educational Review, 77, 317–343.
Watts, I. E., & Erevelles, N. (2004). These deadly times: Reconceptualizing school violence by using critical race theory and disability studies. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 271–299. doi:10.3102/00028312041002271.
Welch, K., & Payne, A. A. (2010). Racial threat and punitive school discipline. Social Problems, 57, 25–48. doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.1.25.
Welch, K., & Payne, A. A. (2012). Exclusionary school punishment: The effect of racial threat on expulsion and suspension. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 10, 155–171. doi:10.1177/1541204011423766.
World Health Organization. (2007). WHO expert committee on problems related to alcohol consumption: Second report. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
World Health Organization. (2009). WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2009: Implementing smoke-free environments. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A120181 to Vanderbilt University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. The authors would also like to thank Mark Lipsey and two peer reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
ETS conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; BWF participated in the analysis and interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. All authors declare no conflicts of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Tanner-Smith, E.E., Fisher, B.W. Visible School Security Measures and Student Academic Performance, Attendance, and Postsecondary Aspirations. J Youth Adolescence 45, 195–210 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0265-5
- Academic performance
- Educational aspirations
- Propensity scores
- School attendance
- School security
- School surveillance