The College of Education and the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University have been awarded a four-year, $4.3 million grant by the National Institute of Justice to study a process for integrating law enforcement officers into an educational setting.
Over two full school years, half of the participating schools will be guided by the TxSSC using research-based framework for implementing their school-based law enforcement program. The framework involves setting tailored goals, including all stakeholders in decision-making, training officers and school staff, and using data-driven decision making to make program adjustments and solve problems. Impact data to be collected and analyzed by WestEd’s Justice and Prevention Research Center (jprc.wested.org) include measures of school climate, delinquency, victimization and school discipline. In addition, fidelity data will be collected by principal investigator Brenda Scheuermann, to determine if the comprehensive framework was implemented accurately.
“This project offers us an exciting opportunity to evaluate a practice (school policing) that is widespread, but about which we know relatively little,” said principal investigator Brenda Scheuermann, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “We hope to be able to show that giving school police officers and educators practical tools for guiding their partnership can produce desirable outcomes in terms of school discipline and school climate.”
School policing has become a widespread practice in Texas and nationwide. However, mixed findings have been reported regarding the effects of placing police in schools. Some studies have suggested that the presence of school police results in increased youth involvement with the justice system. Other studies suggest positive outcomes, including crime prevention and improved student-police relationships. To date, no studies have systematically evaluated the effect of police in schools using randomized controlled trials.
“The Texas School Safety Center is excited about the opportunity to conduct some ground-breaking research in school policing,” said Kathy Martinez-Prather, director of the TxSSC. “We are confident that this research will provide evidence-based guidance for school districts in Texas and across the nation for implementing school-based law enforcement programs.”
By focusing on an implementation framework, rather than a specific program, this study evaluates a translatable approach for enhancing campus safety and reducing exclusionary discipline that can be utilized by schools across the country.
“Our research team is thankful to the National Institute of Justice for providing us the opportunity to conduct this important research,” said Joseph McKenna, TxSSC project director. “We are committed to finding out ‘what works’ in terms of implementing school-based law enforcement programs in an effort to provide practitioners the information they need to be successful.”
This study builds upon the work that Scheuermann and the TxSSC have conducted over the past 20 years. Scheuermann has researched evidence-based approaches to effective discipline in schools and juvenile justice settings, relying on practices known as positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS). Her work has focused on both preventive practices as well as effective interventions for students who exhibit the most challenging behaviors. Most recently, she and a small team of researchers from across the country have been working with juvenile justice agencies in Texas and other states to revise behavioral programming in secure care juvenile facilities to reflect a PBIS framework. The work of this research team reflects, and has contributed to, federal recommendations for juvenile justice programming.
About the Texas School Safety Center
The TxSSC serves as the central location for the dissemination of school safety information and training–including research, tools and technical assistance–in Texas and across the nation. As a result, the TxSSC has become a national leader in this regard and is relied upon for assistance and guidance in the field of school safety since it was established in 1999. Additionally, the TxSSC has extensive experience in developing and delivering best practice training to school-based law enforcement officers.
For more information, visit txssc.txstate.edu.