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In "Cops in schools can be part of solution," (July 23) the Star Tribune Editorial Board argued in favor of school resource officers (SROs) to serve as "mentors, counselors and coaches." The editorial relies on many of the "common sense" arguments that often call for police in schools. But there's one problem.

The body of research on school resource officers indicates that police do not make schools safer but are actually often associated with higher rates of violence. What's more, these officers have other profoundly negative effects on students. Research indicates that police in schools are strongly associated with depressed academic outcomes and increases in exclusionary discipline.

My own research on this topic focuses on more than 415,000 students in 262 urban and suburban high schools, some with no police in schools and some schools with as many as five police with the average number of officers hovering around two. In considering the relationship between police in schools and standardized test scores, robust statistical analysis finds that as you add officers to a school, test scores in math and English decline considerably for each officer present — resulting in as much as 25% of a standard deviation reduction in scores with the maximum number of officers.

This negative effect on test scores is as large as the effect of a student living in poverty. Further, while police presence results in negative scores for all students, Black and Latinx students see considerably greater reductions in scores when police are present. This echoes findings that SROs decrease high school graduation and college enrollment for students with SROs compared to students without SROs.

Simply put, SROs harm student learning and academic success, most notably for students of color.

My own statistical analysis finds that each police officer added to a school strongly increases the probability that a student will be suspended. The probability of a student being suspended is one and a half times higher with the average number of officers and doubles with five officers present, compared to when no officers are in a school. The probability of suspension is even greater for Black and Latinx students. These findings are consistent with past research.

The Editorial Board did offer a reason for putting officers in schools that is consistent with the research literature: Contact with officers can lead to more positive relationships with and views of police. But research finds increased contact with an SRO has a negative effect on school connectedness, a strong predictor of academic success and pro-social behaviors in schools. We ought to question whether viewing police more favorably is a worthwhile outcome when the cost is undermining students' feelings of belonging and safety at school.

With all of this said, it's important and valid that students and their families have real concerns about safety. School leaders in Minnesota must consider solutions that actually make schools safer. Research suggests such interventions include school safety personnel from students' own neighborhoods and communities who know and respect the students and who have robust training in conflict de-escalation and student support. Other effective interventions include reduced class sizes and increases in counselors, social workers and psychologists, all of which are tied to school connectedness and student safety.

Minnesota's students deserve safety. Police won't make schools safer but will lead to so much other harm, particularly for students who experience harm from police regularly in their neighborhoods. Fortunately, there are a host of ways in which decisionmakers can invest in safety.

Jamie Utt-Schumacher, of St. Paul, is an educational researcher.