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Dr. Rachel Garver Receives Research Grant from the Spencer Foundation

Posted in: College News and Events

Headshot photo of Dr. Rachel Garver

Dr. Rachel Garver, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership Department, recently received a $50,000 research grant from the Spencer Foundation. The award is part of the foundation’s Small Research Grants Program. The Spencer Foundation invests in education research that is transformative, methodologically rigorous, and helps create a better society.

Dr. Garver’s research is titled, “What Are the Police Doing Here? The Role of School Resource Officers.” While school-based police, or school resource officers (SROs), have become a standard presence in K-12 US schools, their role remains varied, vague, and controversial. For some, SROs represent the best of community-based policing, serving as mentors for youth and ensuring their safety in an era marked by heightened attention to school shootings. For others, the regular presence of police in schools is part of a larger project of discipline and security measures that criminalize youth, particularly poor youth of color. Are police primarily in schools to protect, discipline, educate, mentor, surveil, or enforce the law? This comparative, multisite case study utilizes an institutional logics perspective to examine how the SRO’s role is negotiated between school administrators and police officers at the district and school levels: How do administrators and SROs understand the SRO’s role? Which political, organizational, social, and cultural resources at the district and school levels do SROs and school administrators draw upon to make sense of the SRO’s role, given the lack of clarity around SROs’ primary purpose? Findings will inform how the SRO’s role is collaboratively constructed by educators and officers and varies by district and school context. The study has implications for policymaking around school safety and discipline, as well as for the training of administrators and SROs.

Dr. Garver’s project will build on and extend her existing research on school safety and discipline. This will help her train future school leaders, specifically in her course ELAD 690, School and Community Relations, where her students study the relationship between schools, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system.