American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 448–470 | Cite as

Examining the Use of Police in Schools: How Roles may Impact Responses to Student Misconduct

  • Joseph M. McKennaEmail author
  • Shawna R. White


Prior research has suggested that the use of police in schools has resulted in negative outcomes for students; however, this line of research has failed to consider other factors that may influence an officer’s response outside of their mere presence. Over time, the roles and duties of police in a school setting have continued to expand as a result of social and political shifts in criminal justice and education policy. Paralleling this expansion has been the development of a more punitive school discipline environment where students are more likely to be suspended, expelled, a ticketed, and/or arrested. As these two separate bodies of research have been tangentially related, in this study, we use role theory as a guiding framework to connect these two bodies of research and examine how officers’ roles may influence their responses to student misconduct. Data was collected via an online survey distributed to a sample of commissioned law enforcement officers working in Texas schools. The survey included measures of officer roles as well as vignettes to assess how officers would respond to specific situations involving students. Results of this study suggest that an officer’s role may influence how they respond to student misconduct, and therefore, may be an important piece of information for both researchers and practitioners when looking to minimize the potential negative impacts of using police in schools. These findings related to officer roles are discussed in terms of both practice and future research, while considering the larger discipline environment of schools.


School policing SROs School-to-prison pipeline Role theory 


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas School Safety CenterTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Relations, School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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