NCES Report: Sworn Officers at Primary Schools on the Rise

Access Control, SROs at Forefront of Many School Safety Plans

The number of public primary schools in the United States opting to hire sworn law enforcement officers has grown significantly in the last decade, according to a recent government report.

The annual report, jointly released by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics on March 29, examines crime occurring in American schools and colleges.

The report found 36 percent of public primary schools had sworn officers on site at least once a week during the 2015-2016 school year, up from 21 percent during the 2005-2006 school year. Comparatively, secondary schools with an officer on site only increase from 58 percent to 65 percent during the same time period.

The size of the primary school played a significant role in the presence of officers. A quarter of schools with less than 300 students reported officers on site compared with 42 percent of schools with 500 to 999 students. The study did not include primary schools with 1,000 or more students.

=Although there has been a significant jump in primary schools with sworn officers, only 13 percent reported that the officers were at the school for all instructional hours every day. In contrast, 85 percent said officers were on site at some point during school hours.

Additionally, 67 percent said officers were at school when students were arriving or leaving and 60 percent said they were present at school activities such as science fairs or athletic events.

Firearm Most Common Weapon Carried by Sworn Officers in Primary Schools

The study also looked at how many law enforcement officers in public schools routinely carry weapons. In primary schools, 64 percent routinely carry a stun gun, 59 percent carry chemical aerosol sprays, 86 percent carry a firearm and 13 percent wear a body camera. Those numbers for secondary schools are 70 percent, 72 percent, 93 percent and 19 percent.

Primary schools in cities were less likely than those in towns and rural areas to report that officers carried a firearm, according to Pew Research. Data shows 73 percent of officers in city schools carry a firearm, 86 percent in suburban schools carry a firearm, 97 percent in town schools carry a firearm and 90 percent in rural schools carry a firearm.

Researchers also asked respondents how prepared their school is for certain crisis scenarios. Ninety-one percent of primary schools reporting having written procedures to be followed in a shooting scenario, which is up from 76 percent in 2003-2004. Similarly, 93 percent reported having written procedures for bomb threats and 96 percent for natural disasters.

Additionally, large majorities of primary schools conducted lockdown (96 percent), evacuation (91 percent) and shelter-in-place (75 percent) drills during the school year.

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