The Uvalde, Tx., school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults has reignited the debate over the presence of police in schools. Lawmakers and school leaders are talking about having more armed guards, also known as school resource officers, stationed on campus, reports USA Today. Virginia plans to spend more than $27 million to fund police positions in schools. Kentucky legislators passed a bill last week requiring school resource officers in all schools. A Somerset, Ma., police chief asked to increase the number of school resource officers permanently. “We know from past experiences that the most effective tool for keeping kids safe is armed law enforcement on the campus,” said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Yet researchers have found that campus policing does not reduce gun violence. A 2021 JAMA Network study examined the presence of armed officers on the scene and the occurrence and severity of mass school shootings from 1980 to 2019. The data suggested “no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases” and no significant reduction in rates of injury. Another 2021 study by RAND Corporation and the University at Albany used national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 to evaluate the impact of school resource officers. It found officers reduce “some forms of violence in schools,” such as physical attacks and fights, but “do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.” The RAND study said school resource officers intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests of students. Blacks, males, and students with disabilities disproportionately bear the brunt of punishments.