Demographics and Police Involvement Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose: A factor largely overlooked amid the press for greater security in schools is the extent to which law enforcement participates in search and seizure and the implications such actions carry for student civil liberties. As case law suggests, police engaged in school searches may be held to the probable cause standard or the more flexible reasonable suspicion standard articulated in New Jersey v. T. L. O. (1985). This article examines the use of law enforcement in schools and whether the probability that student offenses are criminalized increases as a result. Data Collection and Analysis: In this study, researchers report data on 2,270 schools from the School Survey on Crime and Safety made available through the National Center for Education Statistics. Using a factorial ANOVA, researchers use various demographic indicators to measure whether schools ordinarily relying on law enforcement for security report offenses to municipal police to a greater degree than those that do not. Findings: Findings indicate that schools using off-duty law enforcement officers report offenses to the police at a significantly higher rate than those not using off-duty law enforcement officers. While poverty, minority composition, and urbanicity do not interact significantly with off-duty police use, the minority composition of the school and the percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch, when examined as main effects, yield statistically significant differences in the mean percentage of offenses reported to the police. These findings suggest the need for schools to develop clearly articulated policies with respect to police intervention, as well as the need for further research into decision making of principals in schools with greater concentrations of student poverty. © 2009 The University Council for Educational Administration.

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Torres, M. S., & Stefkovich, J. A.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • June 2009