The presence of law enforcement in public schools has been a common security practice in the state of Florida for several decades. Following the tragic 2018 school shooting in Parkland, FL, the state passed a law requiring all public schools to either have law enforcement or other armed personnel present. Drawing on state-wide data for the school years 2014-15 through 2018-19, this report examined the relationship between law enforcement in schools and a number of outcomes including reports of behavioral incidents to the state, incidents reported to law enforcement, school arrests, and exclusionary discipline. This analysis used statistical techniques that controlled for both observable characteristics of districts and schools as well as unobserved characteristics that were fixed over time. Findings suggest that the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act significantly increased the presence of law enforcement in schools, particularly in elementary schools. The presence of law enforcement in schools was related to increases in the number of behavioral incidents reported to the state, the number of such incidents reported to law enforcement, and student arrests. The results suggest a need to reconsider whether law enforcement should be present in schools, and, if they are, how they can be implemented in a way that minimizes unnecessary exposure of students to law enforcement and arrests.
F. Chris Curran, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy and Director of the Education Policy Research Center at the University of Florida. His research focuses on educational equity, with an emphasis on school discipline and safety. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More on the UF Education Policy Research Center can be found at www.ufedpolicy.org