Donna M. Bishop
Joan Fitzgerald, James A. Fox, Susan T. Krumholz
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Law, Policy, and Society Program
Adolescence, Police, School Resource Officer, Social Control, Youth, Zero Tolerance
Law | Public Policy
School violence and safety has become an area of increasing public concern, particularly following the series of highly publicized school shootings in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In an effort to secure the educational environment by applying community policing policies, the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services initiated the "COPS in Schools" program to fund the hiring of School Resource Officers. Between 1999 and 2005, this funding stream placed 138 SROs in Massachusetts public schools and thousands more nationwide.
This study looks at the recent partnership developed between School Resource Officers (SROs) and public high schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as one of the strategies being employed to control student behavior. Two aspects of this alliance were studied. The first area of consideration was that of interagency collaboration between the school administrations (ADMs) and the local police departments. Management issues that arise from two very diverse institutional structures working together within the school context have the potential to impact student discipline. The second aspect of the SRO phenomenon is the impact on student discipline and the potential for the criminalization of normative childhood behavior through the use of more formal methods of student discipline (e.g. arrests, summonses, court referrals), in lieu of previously utilized informal methods of social control (e.g. administrator contacts with parents).
Twenty five school administrators and fifteen SROs, representing 14 schools with SROs and 11 control group schools without SRO programs, were interviewed in this study. The findings showed that, compared to non-SRO schools, SRO schools tended to criminalize normative childhood behavior, such as defiance--redefining it as disorderly conduct or disturbing school assembly. However, it is not clear that this is a result of the presence of the SRO. The more fully the ADM embraces a zero tolerance approach, the more likely the school is both to have an SRO and to use the SRO to institute more formal methods of social control. The SRO appears to be a tool in the formal social control toolkit utilized disproportionately by authoritarian school administrators.
Relationships between ADMs and SROs fell into four distinct categories: Conflict and Confusion, Cooperative with Conflict, Cooperative, and Collaborative. The typology of each ADM-SRO relationship was generated based on the nature of the agreement between them, their level of interaction, the SRO placement decision, and whether the SRO was expected to intervene in routine discipline. In the most collaborative schools the SRO and ADM work together to mitigate the potential legal consequences students may face. The Conflict and Confusion group, on the other hand, is characterized by outright hostility from both sides of the relationship.
Aviva Meena Rich-Shea
Rich-Shea, Aviva Meena, "Adolescent youth and social control: the changing role of public schools" (2010). Law, Policy, and Society Dissertations. Paper 27. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20002800
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