When Law Enforcement Meets School Discipline: School-related Arrests in Maryland 2015-16

Gail L. Sunderman & Erin Janulis

6/1/2018 | Download This Brief

The 2018 school shootings in Maryland, Florida, and Indiana resurrected conversations about school security including the role of police officers on school grounds. Despite the potential benefits of protecting students during violent incidents, the presence of police officers in schools raises other concerns. Research has found that police presence in schools relates to increased rates of arrests and juvenile justice referrals (Curtis, 2013). In addition, research documents that school-related arrests are often for minor misbehaviors rather than actions that endanger other students (Redfield & Nance, 2016; Wolf, 2013), and black students, male students, and students with disabilities (SWD) are arrested disproportionately (USDE-OCR, 2014; Wolf, 2013). While little research exists on the impacts of school-related arrests (by itself) on student’s lives, other research finds that exclusionary discipline practices are associated with school disengagement, low graduation rates, increased dropout rates, and increased involvement with the criminal justice system (Wolf & Kupchik, 2017; Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014; Kirk & Sampson, 2011, Fabio, et. al., 2011; Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2010; Kang-Brown, Trone, Fratello, & Daftary-Kapur, 2013).

Until recently, data on school-related arrests in Maryland has not been easily attainable or widely reported. This situation changed when the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) released data on school-related arrests publically for the first time in 2018 (MSDE, 2018). In this data brief, we examine how school-related arrests vary across school districts in Maryland. We examine arrests rates by race, gender, and students receiving special services to identify potential disparities between groups of students. Since the data released from MSDE captures a single year of arrest data, our analysis is limited to comparisons across districts and different populations of students and does not include trends over time.

Data and Analysis

To examine school-related arrests in Maryland, we use data from the MSDE Student Arrest Data Collection for the 2015-16 school year (MSDE, 2018). This report defines school-related arrests as “an arrest of a student for any activity conducted on school grounds, during off-campus school activities, or due to referral by any school official” (MSDE, 2016).  School-related arrests are reported as the number of incidents rather than the number of students arrested. That is, these duplicated counts include multiple arrests of a single student as separate incidents. We also use 2016 demographic and enrollment data downloaded from the MSDE school report card (MSDE, 2016) and national school arrest data from the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for the 2015-16 school year (USDE-OCR, 2018).

The arrest rate shows the difference between a group’s representation in the population at large and it’s over or underrepresentation in school-related arrests. To examine how school-related arrests vary across districts, we calculated the arrest rate per 1000 students. This is calculated by dividing the number of arrests in a district by the total district enrollment multiplied by 1000. Since larger districts may have more school-related arrests simply because of the number of students enrolled in the district, arrest rates per 1000 students allow us to consider the school-related arrests relative to enrollment rather than simply the frequency of arrests. We also calculate the arrest rate for specific subgroups: race/ethnicity, gender, students with disabilities served by IDEA (SWD), English learners (EL), and students eligible for free and reduced-price meals (FARM).

To compare differences in arrests rates between groups, we calculated the relative risk or risk ratio. The risk ratio shows the probability of a specific subgroup of students receiving a school-related arrest compared to a reference group. For this brief, we compared male to female students, black to non-black students, students with disabilities to students without disabilities, and FARM to non-FARM students. Risk ratios by school district are presented in Appendix B.

School-Related Arrest Rates

School-related arrest rates vary by district

Maryland reported 2,759 school-related arrests in the 2015-16 school year. With a statewide enrollment of 879,196, the arrest rate was 3.1 arrests for every 1000 Maryland K-12 public school students. Comparatively, in 2015-16 the national school-related arrest rate was 1.2 per 1000 students (USDE-OCR, 2018).

Fig1 School-Related Arrests

At the district level, Prince George’s County accounted for the largest share of arrests (21%), followed by Baltimore (14%), and Montgomery (11%) counties (Appendix A). However, when accounting for district size, a very different picture emerges. The district arrest rate ranged from 16.2 arrests in Dorchester County, 11.2 in Washington County, and 10.4 in St. Mary’s County to 0 in Frederick County, which reported no school-related arrests (figure 1). While Prince George’s County had the largest share of arrests, its arrest rate was 4.6; the arrest rate in Baltimore County was 3.5 and in Montgomery County it was 1.9. Among districts with the lowest arrest rates were Anna Arundel (0.5), Wicomico (0.8), Carroll (0.9), Baltimore City (1.1) and Allegany (1.2).

Reasons for school-related arrests

Figure 2 shows that 84% of all arrests fall into four categories:  38% for assault, 25% for other, 12% for possession of controlled substances on school property, and 9% for disorderly conduct. Further, Appendix C shows that black students are over-represented in all arrest categories, with the exception of possession of controlled substances on campus. Many of the reasons for student arrests are relatively minor infractions and/or behaviors that rely on subjective interpretation of behavior (i.e., disorderly conduct, other) rather than more objectively observable criteria (i.e., possession of controlled substance, trespassing, possession of a firearm). Both factors can contribute to disparities in arrests.

Fig2 School-Related Arrests

School-Related Arrests by Race, Gender, and Student Status

Black students are disproportionally arrested at school

Our analysis shows that black students were the only racial group arrested at a higher rate than their proportion of school enrollment at the state level and across districts. Black students represented 66% of 2015-16 school-related arrests while comprising 34.6% of the K-12 public school population (figure 3). Comparatively, white students made up 39% of school enrollment and 21% of school-related arrests. This means that black students are 3.67 times as likely to be arrested at school than non-black students in Maryland, a rate that is higher than the national average of 3.11 (USDE-OCR, 2018). At the district level, the risk of arrest for black students versus non-black students ranged from 16.95 in Queen Anne’s, 11.14 in Talbot, and 10.47 in Howard counties to 2.43 in Montgomery County (Appendix B).

Fig3 School-Related Arrests

Male students are disproportionally subject to arrest at school

In Maryland male students are more likely to receive a school-related arrest compared to female students. As shown in figure 4, male students comprised 51% of the school-age population in 2015-16, yet they represented Fig4 School-Related Arrests67% of school-related arrests. While female students made up 49% of K-12 public school students in Maryland, they represented 33% of school-related arrests statewide. Considered another way, male students in Maryland are almost twice as likely as female students to receive a school-related arrest (RRR=1.97; Appendix B). Nationwide, male students are 2.00 times as likely to be arrested at school than female students (USDE-OCR, 2018). At the district level, the risk that a male student is arrested relative to a female student ranged from 1.42 in Washington County to 4.79 in Queen Anne’s County (Appendix B).

 

 

Students with disabilities and students eligible for free and reduced priced meals are disproportionally subject to arrest at school

Students with disabilities represented 11% of the student population but comprised 22% of school-related arrests (figure 5). As shown in Appendix B, SWD are 2.45 times as likely to be arrested at school than students without disabilities. Comparatively, the Maryland state average is slightly below the national risk ratio of 2.80 for this group (USDE-OCR, 2018). At the district level, the risk of arrest for SWD ranged from 0.66 in Wicomico Fig5 School-Related Arreststo 6.86 in Anne Arundel. While 63% of school-related arrests in Maryland were FARM students, they represented 45% of the student population. Students eligible for FARM are arrested at a rate 2.82 times greater than non-FARM students; the risk of a school-related arrest ranged from 1.11 in Worchester to 7.15 in Wicomico (Appendix B). No national comparison data is available for FARM students. In contrast, English Learners are not arrested at disproportionally high rates (2% arrested compared to 8% of student enrollment).

 

 

 

Conclusion and Recommendations

The results of our analyses found disparities in school-related arrest rates in Maryland, particularly among black students, students with disabilities, and male students. FARM students were also subject to disproportionality in school arrests. Furthermore, the disproportionalities occurred in varying magnitudes in every school district in Maryland where there was sufficient data to examine. The findings suggest that differential treatment of students may be related to these disparities. 

In addition, there is considerable variation between districts in arrest rates and in disproportionalities.  Some of the patterns were unexpected. For example, Baltimore City has among the lowest arrest rates in the state at 1.1 per 1000 students. On the other hand, Anne Arundel County has a relatively low arrest rate (0.5 per 1000 students), but the risk of arrest for black students (7.79) and SWD (6.86) is high. The finding that arrest rates and disproportionalities are much higher in some districts than others suggests that district and/or school level factors likely influence the probability of a school-related arrest. Additional research is necessary to uncover specific school-level characteristics and practices associated with disparities in school-related arrests in Maryland schools. Knowing which schools have higher arrest rates will help to develop targeted school-level interventions designed to help educators improve their disciplinary practices.

Finally, because the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in 2018 (SB 1265) requiring all schools to have a school resource officer (SRO) or other local law enforcement officer in the school, monitoring arrest rates can be used to gauge the impact of this increased police presence in the schools. The current data suggest that school-related arrests are not restricted to serious or dangerous behavior, but appear to be used for other types of disruptions, especially disorderly conduct and ‘other.’ Because research suggests that the presence of a SRO or other security personnel in a school may have both positive and negative consequences for students (Jennings, Khey, Maskaly, & Donner 2011), particularly students of color and those with disabilities (Pigott, Stearns, & Khey 2018), the need for more research and monitoring as the law is implemented is necessary to determine how the presence of these officers impacts arrest patterns.

We applaud MSDE for releasing these data and encourage the continued monitoring of school-related arrests as data become available. A critical first step in creating positive change in disciplinary practices is for MSDE is to broadly share these data with education stakeholders, including educators, administrators, families, and community members. Raising awareness of disparities can create incentives for school leaders to seek out programs and strategies to address them. We recommend the following:

  • Continue monitoring, reporting, and disaggregating school-related arrests annually to identify trends over time. Data collection and reporting are essential for developing and implementing effective strategies for reducing school-related arrests. This analysis establishes a baseline that teachers and administrators can use to track changes over time. In addition, publicly reporting and disaggregating data provides transparency about which groups are disciplined more than others and for what offences. 
  • Develop and implement alternative disciplinary approaches targeted to the needs of each district and school. There are a number of research-based interventions that districts and schools can adopt that are effective in improving school discipline and have the potential to reduce disparities. These strategies focus on three key components:  relationship building through approaches such as restorative practices; social-emotional learning programs that help students understand social interactions and manage their emotions; and changing the structure of the disciplinary system through interventions such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) or revising disciplinary codes of conduct (Skiba & Losen, 2015). In order for educators to integrate these strategies into their practice, it will require time and resources to learn and implement new approaches and ongoing support from school, district, and state leadership.
  • Develop and standardize the definitions of the offenses that can result in a school-related arrest that are consistent and uniform across districts. The MSDE (2016) student arrest manual defines some offenses, but not others. In addition, the reporting categories are broad and include both minor and serious offenses. For example, the MSDE student arrest manual defines physical attack or fighting as “actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against his/her will, or the intentional causing of bodily harm to an individual.” By conflating touching and striking, this definition does not account for the severity of the offense.  
  • Monitor the implementation of SB 1265 to ensure that the increased presence of school resource officers and/or police officers in the schools does not lead to increases in school-related arrests and disparities by race and for vulnerable populations of students.

References

Curtis, A. J. (2013). Tracing the school-to-prison pipeline from zero-tolerance policies to juvenile justice dispositions. The Georgetown Law Journal102, 1251-1277.

Fabelo, T., Thompson, M.D. Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marbanks, M.P., & Booth, E.A. (2011, July). Breaking schools’ rules: A statewide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement. New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center & Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M. Retrieved from https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Breaking_Schools_Rules_Report_Final.pdf

Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin? Educational Researcher, 39(1), 59-68.

Jennings, W. G., Khey, D. N., Maskaly, J., & Donner, C. M. (2011). Evaluating the relationship between law enforcement and school security measures and violent crime in schools. Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations, 11(2), 109–124.

Kang-Brown, J., Trone, J., Fratello, J., & Daftary-Kapur, T. (2013).  A generation later: What we've learned about zero tolerance in schools. Vera Institute of Justice. New York: Vera Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/a-generation-later-what-weve-learned-about-zero-tolerance-in-schools/legacy_downloads/zero-tolerance-in-schools-policy-brief.pdf

Kirk, D. S. & Sampson, R. J. (2011). Crime and the production of safe schools. In Duncan, G. J. & Murnane, R. J., Eds. Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances. 397-417.

Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (Maryland) SB1265 (US) http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2018RS/chapters_noln/Ch_30_sb1265E.pdf

Maryland State Department of Education (2018). Maryland public schools arrest data 2015-2016 [Data file]. Retrieved from http://marylandpublicschools.org/about/Documents/DSFSS/SSSP/StudentArrest/MarylandPublicSchoolsArrestData011218.pdf

Maryland State Department of Education (2016). State report card [Data File]. Retrieved from http://msp2016.msde.state.md.us/

Maryland State Department of Education (2016). Student arrest data collection manual. Retrieved from http://marylandpublicschools.org/about/Documents/DSFSS/SSSP/StudentArrest/20152016StudentArrestsManual072016.pdf

Pigott, C., Stearns, A. E., & Khey, D. N. (2018). School resource officers and the school to prison pipeline: Discovering trends of expulsions in public schools. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 43, 120-138.

Redfield, S.E. & Nance, J.P. (2016, February). The American Bar Association Joint Task Force on Reversing the School-to-Prison Pipeline Preliminary Report. American Bar Association Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, Criminal Justice Section, and Council for Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline (2016). Retrieved from https://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/750/

Skiba, R. J. & Losen, D. J. (2015).  From reaction to prevention: Turning the page on school discipline.  American Educator. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2015-2016/skiba_losen

Skiba, R. J., Arredondo, M. I. & Williams, N. T. (2014). More than a metaphor: The contribution of exclusionary discipline to a school-to-prison pipeline.  Equity & Excellence in Education, 47:4, 546-564. 

Skiba, R. J., Shure, L., & Williams, N. (2012). Racial and ethnic disproportionality in suspension and expulsion. In A. L. Noltemeyer & C. S. McLoughlin (Eds.), Disproportionality in education and special education. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd.

Wolf, K.C. (2013). “Booking students: An analysis of school arrests and court outcomes.” Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy, 9:1, 58-87.

Wolf, K. C. & Kupchik, A. (2017). School suspensions and adverse experiences in adulthood. Justice Quarterly, 34:3, 407-430.

United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (2018). 2015-2016 Civil rights data collection (CRDC)[Data file]. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/crdc-2015-16.html   

Appendix A: School-related Arrest Rate by District

District

Arrests

Enrollment

% of Total Arrests

Arrest rate per 1000 Students

MARYLAND

2761

879,196

-

3.1

Allegany

11

8812

0.40%

1.2

Anne Arundel

39

80,387

1.41%

0.5

Baltimore City

90

83,666

3.26%

1.1

Baltimore County

393

111,138

14.23%

3.5

Calvert

88

16,017

3.19%

5.5

Caroline

*

5602

*

*

Carroll

23

25,551

0.83%

0.9

Cecil

75

15,859

2.72%

4.7

Charles

176

26,307

6.37%

6.7

Dorchester

77

4739

2.79%

16.2

Frederick

0

40,655

0.00%

0.0

Garrett

17

3856

0.62%

4.4

Harford

98

37,448

3.55%

2.6

Howard

242

54,870

8.76%

4.4

Kent

15

2029

0.54%

7.4

Montgomery

304

156380

11.01%

1.9

Prince George's

588

128,936

21.30%

4.6

Queen Anne's

18

7717

0.65%

2.3

Somerset

14

2908

0.51%

4.8

St. Mary's

186

17,941

6.74%

10.4

Talbot

25

4625

0.91%

5.4

Washington

249

22,303

9.02%

11.2

Wicomico

12

14,790

0.43%

0.8

Worchester

19

6660

0.69%

2.9

 Appendix B: Risk Ratio by District

District

Male/Female

Black/Non-Black

SWD (served by IDEA) /Non SWD

FARM/Non FARM

MARYLAND

1.97

3.67

2.45

2.82

Allegany

*

*

*

*

Anne Arundel

3.72

7.79

6.86

4.25

Baltimore City

2.25

4.77

3.80

4.77

Baltimore County

2.04

4.20

1.92

2.62

Calvert

2.07

4.08

2.72

2.42

Caroline

*

*

*

*

Carroll

2.70

*

1.26

1.68

Cecil

2.31

4.60

3.16

3.98

Charles

2.02

3.79

2.40

3.13

Dorchester

2.97

2.68

2.78

3.30

Frederick

*

*

*

*

Garrett

3.03

*

1.86

3.66

Harford

2.91

2.46

3.03

3.54

Howard

1.98

10.47

*

*

Kent

1.96

7.00

*

*

Montgomery

3.75

2.43

1.61

2.02

Prince George's

1.53

4.98

2.73

1.16

Queen Anne's

4.79

16.95

3.14

5.56

Somerset

*

4.78

2.40

*

St. Mary's

1.50

7.31

2.17

5.83

Talbot

1.68

11.14

1.76

6.46

Washington

1.42

5.57

3.42

5.89

Wicomico

*

*

0.66

7.15

Worchester

2.61

8.93

1.96

1.11

Appendix C: School-related Arrests by Offense and Race, Maryland

Arresting Offense

Total

Black

White

Other

#

#

%

#

%

#

%

Arson

15

*

*

*

*

*

*

Assault

1059

760

72%

180

17%

119

11%

Breaking and Entering

14

13

93%

0

0%

*

*

Controlled Substance Possession to or on school property

331

139

42%

135

41%

57

17%

Controlled Substance Possession with intent to distribute

100

64

64%

18

18%

18

*

Disorderly Conduct

251

196

78%

32

13%

23

9%

Other

683

370

54%

167

24%

146

21%

Physical Attack or fight with Weapon

17

16

94%

*

*

*

*

Physical Attack or fight without a weapon

33

*

*

*

*

*

*

Possession of firearm or explosive device

30

25

83%

*

*

*

*

Robbery with a weapon

12

*

*

*

*

*

*

Robbery without a weapon

30

28

93%

*

*

*

*

Sexual Battery

10

*

*

*

*

*

*

Theft Misdemeanor

133

100

75%

22

17%

11

8%

Trespassing

61

47

77%

*

*

*

*

About the Maryland Equity Project

The Maryland Equity Project seeks to improve education through research that supports an informed public policy debate on the quality and distribution of educational opportunities. It conducts, synthesizes, and distributes research on key educational issues in Maryland and facilitates collaboration between researchers and policymakers. The Maryland Equity Project is a program in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership in the College of Education at The University of Maryland.

Copyright © 2018 The Maryland Equity Project, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

This publication should be cited as: Sunderman, G. L. & Janulis, E. (2018). When law enforcement meets school discipline: School-related arrests in Maryland 2015-16. College Park, MD: Maryland Equity Project, The University of Maryland.

Additional copies of this report may be obtained from our Web site at: www.mdequity.org

Maryland Equity Project
College of Education
University of Maryland
2110 Benjamin Building
College Park, MD 20740
Phone:  301-405-3571
Email:  mdequity@umd.edu

Website: www.mdequity.org
Twitter @mdequity

About the Authors

Gail L. Sunderman, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the Maryland Equity Project and senior research scientist in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Maryland.

Erin Janulis, M.A., is a doctoral student in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, College of Education at the University of Maryland.