Since the 1990s, at least 11 states have enacted legislation that funnels state funds into school policing programs, reported the Huffington Post. Four states — Mississippi, Indiana, Florida and Pennsylvania — passed such legislation in 2013, in the months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The combined result has been a dramatic increase in the number of schools with security officers. In 1997, the Department of Education reported that law enforcement officers were present in 10 percent of public schools at least once per week. By 2014, 30 percent of public schools had school resource officers, or SROs, the most common type of law enforcement on campuses.
Most of the money for police in schools comes from state and local funding streams. But federal funds doled out through the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program have also contributed. Established in 1994 by the Clinton administration, the program has so far given state and local law enforcement agencies $14 billion in grants — including over $867 million devoted exclusively to school resource officers, according to numbers The Huffington Post obtained from the Department of Justice.
Studies examining whether schools become safer by having police officers on campus have produced conflicting results, according to a June 2013 Congressional Research Service report produced in response to Sandy Hook. Schools with sworn law enforcement officers were more likely to be patrolled, investigate student crime leads and possess emergency plans. But the research “does not address whether SRO programs deter school shootings, one of the key reasons for renewed congressional interest in these programs,” the report said.
And many parents, community members and civil rights activists say the presence of police officers inside classrooms does more harm than good. They complain that officers routinely punish children for small infractions and, in some cases, treat acts that parents categorize as “typical teenage behavior” like criminal activity.