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Student voice project May 2017

High school students Perceptions of the
What is the Student Voice
Baltimore City School Police Force Project? The Student Voice
Project was conducted by graduate
students from the University of
Maryland Baltimore Countys
psychology department. It began in
May 2015, in response to issues of
police brutality, the death of
Freddy Gray, and debates about
the role of school police and
community-law enforcement.
These debates lacked the voice of
students. The goal of our project
was to understand and share
students perspectives on these

Who participated in the Student Voice Project? A

Were lucky were in a situation They take their job just like it's a total of 83 high school students from Baltimore City public
where we have cops who are like joke. But towards kidsthey treat
schools participated in the Student Voice project. Information
actually doing their jobs and not us like we're adults on the street
about the type of schools is listed in the pie chart.
being overly aggressivethere are that do criminal things. Fighting is
some cops that are overly aggressive, a criminal thing but the way they
like weve seen like a ton of videos take it, like they'll slam you down How did we collect our data? Trained graduate students
and stuff like police officers beating or they'll do something like to hurt conducted focus groups with high school students. Groups
kids in school you. ranged from 2 - 9 students, and the focus groups were audio
recorded and transcribed.

Students opinions of school School police are often viewed as Majority of students thought
police varied positive, protective, and engaged police should not carry guns in
most circumstances

Students with positive perceptions of Many students described school police There were different views on whether
school police attributed this to officers as positive, protective and engaged. or not officers should be allowed to
building relationships with students This view of school police occurred in carry firearms in school. The majority
and aiding in de-escalation of fights or schools where the officers had an of students felt that police officers
other conflict between students. active role in getting to know should not carry guns, and believed it
Additionally, they described school students outside of incidents (e.g. jeopardized the safety of students and
police as protectors who helped to not just becoming involved with them created an atmosphere of fear and
keep the school safe from violence and when there is a fight). intimidation.
other criminal activity. There are variations both within Some students expressed that police
Students with negative perceptions schools and between schools concerning officers should be allowed to access
attributed this to school police the role of school police officers. The guns, but that they should not carry
attempts to control and/or intimidate police officers that were more them in school settings.
students. Students perceived these engaged with the students were Other students, however, felt that
officers as lacking an understanding of more easily able to develop trusting police should carry their weapons
how to interact in a developmentally relationships. in order to display their authority,
appropriate manner. keep the peace among students, and
Students with a neutral perception of better enforce the rules.
school police indicated that the police In our school...our police officers are really
werent great but also werent cool, and theyll like, talk to you...or theyll walk
bad. These participants had minimal into classrooms...theyre friendly. But, dont get me I feel like if you're dealing with students then
wrong, when theres a fight, they have to do you shouldn't under any circumstance
interactions with school police officers
their job. They dont have any problem doing need a gun.
and believed them to be generally
their jobI like our officers
uninvolved in their lives.
Distribution of High School Students
Bills that have been passed in
Maryland General Assembly Innovative
include: 27% 32%

In 2017, HB052 passed. This bill Vocational Tech

requires the Baltimore City School
17% Zoned
Police (BCSP) Force to report every 10%
two years to the Baltimore City Restructured
Delegation to the General Assembly 4% 7% 3%
about the condition of vehicles and Other
firearms (of the BCPS).

Bills that have been proposed in Other emerging themes

Maryland General Assembly
School climate shapes There is a consistent
students' perception of the distinction made between
necessity of school police. school and community
In 2015, HB101 was proposed. This police.
bill would authorize school police
officers to carry a weapon on school Participants who described attending Students consistently viewed police
schools with high levels of violence officers in their community as
premises. often described the police officers as aggressive and intimidating, and
In 2016, HB1632 was proposed. This having a more active role, so that emphasized that most youth had a sense of
bill would allow school police officers students could be protected. In these fear of community police. Youth often
to act in an official capacity for school contexts, the participants were more indicated that police in the community do
likely to know their school officers (e.g., not view them as youth, but as adults.
discipline only in a situation that poses
their name, what they were like) and Students reported primarily negative
an imminent threat of serious harm to have a positive view towards them. On interactions with these officers who they
another student or faculty member. the other hand, students who described perceived as inadequately trained to interact
In 2016, HB1296 was proposed. This their school climate as relatively with youth. Whereas students unanimously
calm had very little to say about the viewed community police officers
bill would require that entrance level
police in their school, as there were not negatively, the majority of students had
and in-service training for law many observed interactions between positive or neutral perceptions of school
enforcement officers include at least police and students. police officers.
40 hours of community service, which
would include local public schools and
[School police] is only temporary help. I feel I think its just dislike.with all the police
local sports organizations. like if they invested the money that they would brutality stuff and people dying, [students]
to get more police into like rec centers or after just assume that [police are] bad. And they
school activitiesthe problem wouldnt dont do much to change your opinion so they
happen in the first place just dislike the police altogether.

Students recommended several strategies to improve relations

between youth and law-enforcement.

Ideas included: 1) police officers receiving more continuous training (e.g.,

CONTACT INFORMATION: every year), 2) training police how to interact with and restrain youth in a
Studentvoiceproject@umbc.edu developmentally appropriate way, 3) more comprehensive mental health
screening and evaluations for police officers, and 4) police officers taking
a more active role in building relationships with youth. Some students
proposed that police officers stationed in schools could participate in daily
activities (e.g., afterschool programs, clubs) so that all students are able to see the
police officer as a person.