Title

Should Police be in Schools? Investigating the Impact of G.R.E.A.T. Officers in a School District

Location

Vernon

Strand #1

Safety & Violence Prevention

Relevance

This presentation summarizes an evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program within a school district. This G.R.E.A.T. program aims to reduce gang activity and violence within schools and local communities. In sum, this presentation will address the extent this program is effective in reaching it's goals.

Brief Program Description

This presentation will summarize an evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, as well as give participants tools on how to best use evaluations to impact education policy decisions. National and district level data are used to address a hot topic: Should police be in schools? What role should they play? What impact can they have?

Summary

This presentation will summarize an evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. program, as well as give participants tools on how to best use evaluations to impact education policy decisions. The G.R.E.A.T. program is a nationally known, evidence-based program that focuses on reducing youth gang involvement, decreasing school and community violence, preventing criminal activity, and improving relationships amongst law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students. Specially trained law enforcement officers, also known as G.R.E.A.T. officers, take on the responsibility of training students on how to avoid gang pressures by utilizing positive behavior rehearsal techniques. As a requirement of the program, G.R.E.A.T. officers are stationed in middle and elementary schools where they administer the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum to fourth and sixth grade students. Recently, a city council, in the southern region, discussed plans on reducing funding for the G.R.E.A.T. program and shifting funds to the local school district. Unfortunately with statewide mandated budget cuts, the future of the G.R.E.A.T. program looked bleak. Administrators from the school district were in need of an evaluation to determine how, if at all, has G.R.E.A.T. impacted its students, schools, and community. Ultimately, school district leaders contacted evaluators from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina to request an evaluation of the gang-awareness program. Findings reveal that students displayed a noticeable improvement in their behavior, exhibited positive relationships with law enforcement officers, and had a statistically significant difference in suspension rates. Although school personnel requested more communication, resources, and trainings from G.R.E.A.T. officers, a majority of participants expressed feeling safer due to an increase of police presence in their school. Arguably, the most beneficial finding was that the program proved to be a larger benefit to the county than a cost. Research showed that with the program’s continuation, the county had the ability to save over $20,000,000 over a period of 10 years. Through this evaluation, school district leaders received resources that explained the impact of G.R.E.A.T. on students, schools, and the community. In addition, they were able to make the much-needed decision on whether to keep or remove the program.

Evidence

• In an early evaluation, G.R.E.A.T. program participants reported a range of benefits, including lower levels of gang affiliation, lower levels of drug use, lower rates of delinquency, more negative attitudes toward gangs, and more positive attitudes toward police, as compared to non-participants one year after the program (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999). • Esbensen and colleagues (2012) conducted a national longitudinal randomized control trial and found that G.R.E.A.T. participants were significantly less likely to join gangs, had more positive attitudes toward law enforcement, more negative attitudes toward gangs, and were better able to use skills that reduce the risk of violent behavior and gang affiliation. This evaluation found that the odds of gang membership were 39% lower for G.R.E.A.T. participants as compared to students who had not participated in the program (Esbensen et al., 2012). • Using rigorous methodology, researchers found that positive effects persisted years after the program. G.R.E.A.T participants continued to have more positive attitudes toward police, lower odds of gang membership, more negative attitudes toward gangs, and better skills to refuse peer pressure than non-participants, four years after program participation (Esbensen et al., 2013). Esbensen, F-A. and Osgood, D.W. (1999). Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.): Results from the National Evaluation. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36: 194-225. Esbensen, F-A., Peterson, D., Taylor, T.J., and Osgood, D.W. (2012). Results from a Multi-Site Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program. Justice Quarterly 29 (1): 125-151. Esbensen, F-A., Osgood, D.W., Peterson, D., Taylor, T.J., and Carson, D.C. (2013). Short- and Long-Term Outcome Results from a Multisite Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program. American Society of Criminology 12 (3): 375-411.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Cassandra R. Davis holds a Ph.D. in Education from UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Davis specializes as a qualitative researcher for the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has evaluation experience on both large-scale statewide projects like the North Carolina Race to the Top education reform evaluation, and smaller-scale projects typically from non-profit organizations. In addition to program evaluation, Dr. Davis consults with school systems across the North Carolina on topics such as teacher recruitment and retention, student suspension policies, and dropout prevention.

Michael E. Smalenberger holds an M.S. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from Eastern New Mexico University. Mr. Smalenberger specializes as a quantitative researcher for the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina. In addition, Mr. Smalenberger is a faculty member at Elon University.

Keyword Descriptors

Gang resistance, Behavior modification, Program evaluation, Law enforcement

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-3-2015 10:15 AM

End Date

3-3-2015 11:30 AM

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Mar 3rd, 10:15 AM Mar 3rd, 11:30 AM

Should Police be in Schools? Investigating the Impact of G.R.E.A.T. Officers in a School District

Vernon

This presentation will summarize an evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, as well as give participants tools on how to best use evaluations to impact education policy decisions. National and district level data are used to address a hot topic: Should police be in schools? What role should they play? What impact can they have?