National conversations about police brutality have spurred school districts nationwide to reconsider their relationships with local law enforcement agencies. In the 2017–2018 school year, 45 percent of all public schools reported having one or more full- or part-time school resource officers (SROs) present at school at least once a week. However, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement officers, the Minneapolis school board voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department, which had provided the district with SROs. Soon after, other districts—including Oakland Unified School District, Denver Public Schools, Charlottesville City Schools, Milwaukee Public Schools, and San Francisco Unified School District—enacted similar measures to remove police officers from schools.
As these and similar actions gain momentum, it is critical that districts and school boards listen to their communities’ needs and concerns and actively engage community members in decision making. Five findings from research can inform conversations between school districts and their communities about the utility of SROs, given racial disparities in school policing and the availability of alternative strategies for improving school safety.