Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Lloyd D. Davis

Committee Members

C. Glennon Rowell, Thomas W. George, Richard Metzger


On May 14, 2004, two students from the Russell Middle School in Winder, Georgia were arrested after it was learned that they had planned a Columbine style massacre on the last day of school (Johnston, 2004, June 8). The 1999 Columbine High School tragedy in Littleton, Colorado resulted in fourteen students and teachers being killed in a rampage by two socially alienated students (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum and Modzeleski, 2002). The Georgia middle school students had diagrams of the school, a list of eighth graders plus a teacher to kill, firearms, and had planned to kill themselves in the end (Johnston, 2004, June 7). A student confided in the School Resource Officer to alert the authorities to the plot. The SRO took appropriate action and a tragedy was averted. The two boys were convicted of making terroristic threats on June 8, 2004 in the Barrow County Georgia Juvenile Court (Teenagers, 2004, June 9). This recent national story underlines the importance of the SRO efficacy debate. Following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001, additional questions were raised concerning the status of school safety from terrorist threats. Although not a long term environmental learning issue, SRO participation in protecting a school from this type of threat also became an issue. The September 1, 2004 Chechen terrorist takeover of School Number 1 in Beslan, Russia, which resulted in over 300 deaths, has re-opened the debate (Lively and Barnes, 2004, September 11). The Chechen incident resulted in 1200 hostages, 338 deaths (half of them children), and the school building itself being destroyed (Classes, 2004, September 16). Further similar attacks by the Chechen terrorist leader have been threatened (Chechen, 2004, November 1). Beyond the research issues raised in this paper, the broader questions of the SRO’s role or benefit within a potential terrorist scenario is a legitimate one for additional discussion as a computer disc containing particulars on selected U.S. schools was recently found on an unidentified Iraqi man’s computer in Iraq (Cavanagh, 2004, October 6). A safe and disciplined learning environment is essential for academic achievement as it enables learning and teaching in a direct link (Barton 2001) and (DOE, NCES 2001-030, December, 2000). Without this safe educational setting, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. Where there is chronic disorder, the possibility of learning is markedly compromised (Barton, Coley, and Wenglinsky, 1998). The SRO presence is being heralded as an essential brick in a school’s foundation, helping support a solid learning environment for the students. Fifty-two percent of teachers now report that there is now an armed police officer presence on their school grounds (Vogel, 2004). The question of whether the SRO presence actually improves or in some way enhances a school’s environment to the extent that either student learning is measurably enhanced and/or student adverse behavior is measurably reduced is the subject of this research. The syncopated SRO implementation over a five year period within the school district in this research allowed within year and between year comparisons of much of these data over the course of that implementation. A descriptive review of other SRO research history to date was also included in conjunction with this study for reader understanding of the current and pending SRO quantitative and qualitative research landscape. To evaluate the possible SRO impact on school environments, changes in measured juvenile court data, school district data, SRO data, student achievement test data, and student value-added test data over a ten year period were assessed and compared with the appropriate statistical conclusions drawn. Multiple achievement and SRO measures from a total of twelve middle schools and seven high schools, with and without SROs assigned, were assessed from the 1993-1994 through the 2002-2003 school years. Relevant issues associated with the exercising of these descriptive and statistical data comparisons are presented. Attempts were made to triangulate the five data source results to form a quantitative mosaic of the overall impact of an SRO’s presence in these nineteen schools. Conclusions and recommendations are presented, including the SRO evaluation listings and descriptions. This research concludes with a recommended listing of “School Indicators of Well-Being” based on the knowledge gained while performing the research. The major study conclusion drawn was that there was no measurable overall positive quantitative change within the affected district’s middle and high schools due to the SRO implementation through multiple measures and a continuing SRO presence. Recommendations included the conducts of additional quantitative studies on SRO efficacy, the establishment of a consistent federal definition of a “persistently dangerous” school, the adoption of nationally standardized school resource officer reporting protocols, and research on the postulated “covert aversion” behaviorism concept. An additional section detailing proposed “School Indicators of Well-Being” is presented for adoption by schools to track overall school system health.

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