School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Susan Quindag


school resource officers, deterrence, zero-tolerance policies, school-to-prison pipeline, criminalization, minority




The purpose of this multicase study was to understand school resource officers’ (SROs’) perceptions of zero-tolerance policies’ impact on economically disadvantaged minority middle and high school students in 10 North Carolina public schools. The theory guiding this study was Gibbs’s deterrence theory because deterrence ideals are the basis of exclusionary disciplinary policies. The theory states that punishment reduces crime or, as it relates to zero tolerance, reduces the likelihood of discipline infractions. The central question for the current research was “How does the implementation of zero-tolerance policies promote or deter the disciplinary referrals of minority and economically disadvantaged students through policy and the role of school resource officers?” This research utilized interviews, document analysis through digital journals, and two focus groups for data collection. Categorical aggregation and pattern matching were implemented for data analysis. The five major themes revealed through the data analysis were (a) the Primary Role of Safety, (b) Diverting the Students, (c) Zero-tolerance Implementation, (d) Student Life Factors, and (e) Charging the Students. The study did not support previous research that found African American students to be associated with higher rates of juvenile justice referrals or the placement of SROs in the school to support a system that harms and criminalizes youth of color, particularly African American youth. This study suggests a minimal relationship between zero-tolerance policy implementation and the role of SROs.

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